Vodafone slashes emissions impact with Internet of Things
Vodafone has helped save its customers more than 3.5m tonnes of CO2e thanks to its ability to connect devices and share information through the Internet of Things (IoT).
That’s according to the latest CSR report from the telecomms giant, which claimed the massive carbon saving was driven by its range IoT solutions - smart meters, cloud-based services, call conferencing and smart logistics.
The IoT refers to the transfer of information between two objects or machines - also known as machine-to-machine (M2M).
For example Vodafone enabled smart bins in cities to transmit data to the local council, alerting them when they need to be emptied. By only making trips when necessary, a refuse fleet in one city cut transport emissions by 18%.
The Vodafone report said: "Helping our customers to reduce their operating costs is a clear benefit of M2M services, but enabling the potential for the reduction in a company’s carbon footprint is also an important motivation for many businesses to use this technology.
“Carbon-reducing applications for M2M technology are wide-ranging – from improving fleet operations and making utilities more efficient, to enabling wider use of electric vehicles and monitoring stock levels in vending machines remotely.”
Another example saw Vodafone SIMs installed in BBOX solar-powered generators, which deliver off-grid power in several African countries. The SIM allows operators to check faults, install updates, track usage and monitor payments, all from the UK.
In the Netherlands, Vodafone’s network is used to share information about the driving efficiency of 1,500 bus drivers.
By delivering feedback to drivers, the bus operator, Connexion, expects to improve fuel efficiency by more than 5% a year, saving over £2 million.
However this success has not carried over into Vodafone’s own net emissions, which increased 10% year-on-year to 2.8m tonnes of CO2e.
The company said the uptick was caused by an expanding business and doubling the amount of data carried by its network.
The poor progress means that Vodafone has now ditched its existing target to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% against the 2006/07 baseline by March 2020 in mature markets.
Explaining the change, the company said: “Our business has changed significantly since we set this objective and we are now replacing it with a new goal that takes into account the emissions reductions our services deliver for our customers as we continue to seek to minimise our own carbon footprint.
The new goal is: “Enable our customers to reduce their carbon emissions by twice the amount of carbon we generate through our own activities.”
Vodafone UK also reported a massive spike in energy use and emissions, in its dedicated report in December. The division said it has put in place a programme to reduce emissions by 3% this year.
Recent research from the University of Surrey claimed that the ‘frequent upgrades' business model for mobile phones wass not congruent with a sustainable use of resources.
Vodafone representatives did not respond to an edie request for comment, but the new Sustainability report does include a focus on recycling and reusing phones.
The Vodafone Trade In scheme – which operates in 12 lcoal markets – offers incentives, such as store credit, to return used phones and tablets. Returned mobile phones are refurbished and resold, and in cases where this is not possible components are extracted and recycled.
“Vodafone Trade In is a good example of how operating responsibly can directly support our business,” said the report.
“It gives customers the option to return equipment they no longer need and has a commercial benefit for Vodafone.”
However, the number of devices collected by the scheme fell from 1.29m to 1.15m in 2014/15.
“This is a very small proportion of the number we sell,” said the report. “However, there are many other recycling options available to customers in European markets.
“In many of our emerging markets there is limited demand for recycling programmes, as unwanted mobile phones are typically reused by family and friends.”
The company added that it was a member of the Circular Economy 100, and that 98% of the e-waste generated v by the company was recycled.