opinion


CSPs’ place in remedying the climate crisis

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Albert Tan, Accenture’s Communications & Media industry lead on Sustainability, examines the role of the telecoms industry in helping with measures designed to reduce climate change.

The very nature of CSPs’ business model places them at the centre of a paradox. They are simultaneously creators and champions of a new efficiency paradigm powering innovation and new solutions, and they are the gatekeepers of a massive rise in energy usage through rapidly expanding data consumption across new devices.

CSPs’ ubiquitous presence with enterprises across industries, billions of customers, and thousands of suppliers puts them at the epicentre of commerce and everyday life. Consider, for example, social media surfing. The sustainability solutions provider Greenspector estimated in 2021 that a typical social media surfer using an internet search provider (ISP) network generates the equivalent of 60 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions a year by surfing the 10 most popular social media apps. This is about the same amount as a 535km car trip.

There is, however, evidence that the industry is successfully innovating to build a more sustainable global scenario. Recent research found that, despite an 8x increase in data traffic, operational emissions from the information and communications technology (ICT) sector could remain flat. And, if the potential impact of Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are included, operational emissions across mobile networks, fixed networks, and data centres could decrease by nearly 40% by 2030.

The rapid shift toward sustainability presents a tremendous opportunity for CSPs to play a critical role in achieving global net zero ambitions. With their vast networks of suppliers and customers, CSPs are in a unique position to inspire and lead change that reaches well beyond emission reductions secured by their own internal operations.

To get started, however, organisations need to consider and understand the role they can play. Based on our own research and experience working with CSPs worldwide, we have identified three roles they can embrace to greatly reduce CO2 emissions – all while maintaining profits and driving growth for their organisations. These personas are designed to provoke thought from CSPs around where how they could create the biggest impact in the industry:

  • Sustainability Leaders

The Sustainability Leader sets bold ambitions for environmental sustainability as part of both its business strategy and operations, investing and innovating to meet aggressive, personalised targets while setting an example for peers. These companies set bold environmental goals, invest in sustainable infrastructure and tools, and create new ways of working and products geared towards sustainability.

Many CSPs have found this role to be the natural starting point in their sustainability journey. While creating individual sustainability goals, efforts in sustainable operations and investments have had tangible results and impact the entire industry.

  • Ecosystem Enablers

Ecosystem Enablers look beyond their operations and products and across a diverse set of partners, peers and adjacent industries, and suppliers in their ecosystems. They take the lead in pushing sustainability measures across their spheres of influence and with their peers, going beyond regulatory and shareholder requirements to deliver broader value across partners and cross-industry. Importantly, they evaluate and collaboratively enhance the social and environmental impact of their products and services across their broader ecosystem.

This role requires a CSP to not only consider its organisation, operations, and products, but go further to assess goals and targets for its partners, suppliers, and other industries within its sphere of influence; like partnering with utilities in a “dig once” approach or collaborating on their transition from diesel generators to clean energy solutions. These goals permeate across the organisation, down to all lines of business, including (but not limited to) supply chain and procurement teams.

  • Consumer Champions

The Consumer Champion role calls on CSPs to use their influence, resources, and relationships to educate consumers of all types on the environmental impact of their activities, ways to reduce that impact, and drive improved sustainability outcomes in their communities. CSPs’ products, services, and initiatives can help support better, more informed consumer choices and drive consumer behaviour change. The role of the Consumer Champion varies by geopolitical region with tailored solutions that are community and population specific.

These roles are not exclusive and, indeed, are best pursued together, with success in one spilling over into supporting the others. By adopting one (or more!) of these roles, CSPs around the world will build their core business and deepen customer relationships – positioning themselves for sustainable innovation in the future and driving the environmental impacts we need now.

 

Albert Tan is Accenture’s ASIAM Head of Network Services covering Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, India, Africa, and the Middle East. He also serves as Accenture’s global Communications & Media Lead on Sustainability, bringing 25 years’ worth of experience and leadership to the practice. Albert previously served roles of Chief Digital Officer and two-time Chief Strategy Officer at Huawei, Veon, and Telkom Indonesia, respectively with key areas of specialization in telecommunications and ISPs, high-tech equipment and software vendors, and digital accelerators.

 


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