Vodafone targets energy innovation with Sustainable Business drive

Off the back of rising greenhouse gas emissions, telecoms giant Vodafone is championing 'energy innovation' as one of three new 'global transformation goals' under a new, 10-year Sustainable Business strategy.

The London-based firm, which has 462 million mobile customers across 26 countries, wants to deliver “meaningful socio-economic benefits for customers and wider society” through its new Sustainable Business goals, which also incorporate women’s empowerment and youth skills and jobs.

Vodafone group chief executive Vittorio Colao said: “The outcome from our work during 2015-16 is a new sustainable business strategy for Vodafone. The change in nomenclature – from Sustainability to Sustainable Business – is a reflection of our desire to ensure our business objectives have a clear social purpose.

“We believe a commitment to enhancing lives and livelihoods should be integral to our duty to maximise returns to our shareholders.”

Whilst not setting any specific energy innovation targets within its inaugural Sustainable Business report, Vodafone says it will focus on the development of strategies to optimise Vodafone’s energy use, while helping customers optimise their consumption.

Specifically, the group will investigate new measures to enhance energy efficiency and reduce emissions from its general business and administrative activities; and look to replace carbon-intensive energy sources from the grid with renewables generated on-site, in an effort to strengthen security of supply. 

This increased focus on energy efficiency and renewable generation comes at a much-needed time for Vodafone. The Sustainable Business report, released earlier this week, reveals a 4% rise in total greenhouse gas emissions, predominantly as a consequence of a 6% increase in energy consumption. The business is currently spending more than £700m a year on energy – representing around 6% of its total annual operating expenditure.

The group has seen strong improvements in the area of energy efficiency, however, with the report showing that annual emissions per petabyte (one thousand million million bytes) of data carried by Vodafone’s mobile networks were 40% lower than 2015, despite a 70% increase in data carried.

Vodafone is also succeeding in its ambition to reduce emissions at a customer level. In 2015, it announced a new goal to help customers reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two tonnes for every tonne of greenhouse gas it generates from its own operations, by the end of March 2018. 

At the end of March 2016, Vodafone has enabled customers to avoid 1.74 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions for every tonne it generated through its own activities during 2015-16, putting it well on track to meet that two-to-one goal by 2018.

Internet of Things

Continuing this drive to reduce customer emissions, Vodafone is placing an increasing focus on the internet of things (IoT). With 38 million IoT connections already in place, the group is forging new partnerships and collaborations to improve efficiencies across the globe. 

For example, Vodafone is working with Westminster Council to embed wireless sensors in the road surface – connected to Vodafone’s global IoT network – which will enable drivers to locate a free parking space quickly and reduce transport congestion in the process.

Vodafone has also begun to introduce smart street lighting across access networks. Hampshire County Council, for instance, deployed Vodafone’s IoT network at the heart of a new smart street lighting system and reduced lighting-related energy consumption by two million kWh within 15 months of implementation.

The telecoms firm also recently formed a partnership with Philips Lighting – combining an IoT network with an integrated LED street light management system – which could see cities across the world slash energy use by as much as 70%.

Vodafone’s sustainability report comes a week after fellow telecoms giant BT revealed it is on course to help its customers reduce carbon emissions by three times the end-to-end carbon impact of its own operations by 2020. BT’s savings were facilitated by various carbon-reducing products and services – some of which are also in the IoT space – which have generated £3.6bn revenue.

Luke Nicholls George Ogleby

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