Virgin Media falling short of carbon reduction target

Virgin Media's total carbon emissions have risen by 2.6% since 2007, leaving the communications giant a long way from reaching its 2015 goal of a 15% reduction.

In a sustainability update released last week, the firm gave a ‘thumbs down’ for its total direct and indirect emissions. But Virgin’s head of sustainability Katie Buchanan told edie this performance is not an accurate representation of the firm’s sustainability ethos, pointing to the company’s rapid growth as the reason for the increase in emissions.

“We achieved a 5% reduction in direct and indirect CO2/£m revenue emissions in 2013 compared to 2012 and have been reducing our carbon each year since 2009,” said Buchanan. “Demand for data on our network has gone up over 50% per year in recent years and even more over the long-term whilst we have our consistently increased in network speeds, with customers download speeds doubling in 2012/2013.

“Since 2007, the uptake of more powerful PVR set top boxes has been a large factor leading to increased demand for electricity in customers’ homes and demand from our cable network. In 2009, we launched the more powerful TiVo platform which was in nearly two million customers’ homes in 2013. In response, we have successfully reduced the energy consumption of the more advanced TiVo product by 33%, helping customers use less energy every day.

“We have been reducing energy use in our main offices with 10 bases driving 11% aggregated energy reductions with top sites reducing energy use by 22% over the year.”

Behaviour change

One successful initiative noted in the CSR report was a new company-wide scheme which offered holidays as an incentive for Virgin MEdia drivers to drive efficiently, while the firm also replaced its old Vauxhall Astras (139g/km CO2e) with Ford Focus models (99g/km CO2e).

Virgin also implemented energy saving contracts at 10 offices locations last yeat (which accounted for 73% of the business’ total energy consumption), averaging an 11% energy reduction in each of these sites.

For 2014, the company wants to achieve a 10% average reduction in energy use at its three biggest technical sites (Bromley, Stockton and Knowsley) through the implementation of free air cooling among other energy saving measures.

Zero waste

Away from carbon emissions, Virgin reported successful measures in waste, having sent zero waste to landfill as of October 2013, compared to 28.8% in 2012. In 2014, the firm will turn its attention in-house, having pledged to divert 70% of total office waste away from landfill to recycling and reuse centres.

The company appeared to be less forthcoming about its water usage last year, though, with the CSR report giving no details of its water consumption results for 2012-13.

Explaining the reason behind this, Buchanan added: “Water isn’t part of our materiality framework, however this frame work, along with our baselines for Carbon Emissions are being reconsidered later this year to reflect the changing nature of our business, as we align with our new parent company Liberty Global.”

Virgin’s sustainability performance for 2013 can be viewed via the company website here.

Luke Nicholls

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