Sustainability in corporate business is entering a new era. It’s not enough to make ambitious statements that are light on detail anymore – proof of action is needed.
With increasing urgency, leading global organisations are asking for help with obtaining accurate emissions data, and I think it’s worth breaking down what’s behind this, and then how we’re working to help.
What’s driving this demand for detailed data on sustainability progress?
Several factors have come together to create a groundswell of opinion that sustainability gains must be backed up by hard figures:
- Investors, governments and regulators want concrete proof of progress
A high awareness of the importance of carbon reduction is driving investors, governments and regulators to tighten their oversight and ask for validated progress data. Sustainability results are now a regular part of company annual reports and detailed sustainability data is increasingly a requirement in contract stipulations from governments and purchasing organisations.
- Attention on Scope 3 emissions is increasing
The initial stages of improving sustainability saw organisations tackling their Scope 1 and 2 emissions because they were within their immediate control. Now, however, organisations are being held accountable for their Scope 3 emissions, and because up to 95% of all organisations’ emissions come indirectly from their supply or value chains, they’re turning to their supply chain partners for data.
- Robust data is the best defence against greenwashing accusations
Today, stakeholders committed to a greener future are more discerning, looking out for superficial claims aimed solely at enhancing an organisation's image. Up until now, this so called ‘greenwashing’ has been rife. Two-thirds of executives around the globe had doubts as to whether their company’s sustainability efforts were genuine, and, since 2021, the European Commission found 42% of sustainability claims were false. Today, a public accusation of greenwashing can be extremely damaging for an organisation, affecting reputation, trust and status.
- Effective carbon cutting often brings cost savings
Genuine carbon reductions are often a result of cutting energy use, and the consequent cost savings are highly motivating for organisations. After the 2022 global energy crisis caused fuel prices to surge by an average of 50%, optimising operations to minimise energy use makes financial, as well as environmental, sense.
- Genuine sustainability credentials retain and attract top talent
People want to work for a sustainable employer, and we know that 71% of workers consider an organisation’s environmental record when deciding on whether to accept a job. Interestingly, 82% of executives want to see an improvement in the sustainability of their workplaces, with employees valuing an organisation genuinely caring about sustainability over traditional perks such as subsidised gyms or cafeterias. However, potential employees are extremely wary of empty claims, so being able to substantiate carbon reduction achievements is a powerful persuader.
So, the demand for definitive sustainability data is strong, and rising – but do organisations have the capability to deliver?
Building a full picture of our network’s carbon footprint
We’ve long been on a sustainability journey – but telling you about that isn’t my focus here. Today is about how we’ve anticipated this need for more definitive emissions data, and how we intend to provide it.
Right now, if you ask many third-party suppliers for emissions data, they’ll have no option but to use your spend to estimate emissions – but this isn’t accurate enough for true accountability, and will increasingly be rejected as a measure by governments, regulators and investors.
Anticipating this, we decided to build precise emissions-data generation into the transformation of our global voice network – reducing our carbon footprint at the same time as accurately mapping the emissions produced by each part of our operation.
We’re leaving traditional phone networks and ISDN behind as we simplify and modernise our network, adopting IP communications and moving some aspects into the Azure cloud and others into more energy-efficient data centres. This means we’ve drastically reduced our carbon footprint, but can still provide the same services.
But, alongside this transformation, we’ve been taking stock - going through our network with a fine-toothed comb to detail how much kit we’ve got, where it is and how much power it’s using. We’ve also included embodied carbon emissions in our analysis, even though estimating embodied emissions is challenging because it needs data from material extraction, manufacturing, transportation and disposal at end of life, to name just a few points of assessment. To achieve this, we’ve liaised with all the manufacturers of the components in our network to collect their embodied carbon emissions data and, where data was limited, we've followed industry guidance to inform our assumptions.
Understanding and measuring our global voice network’s emissions
Using the carbon footprint of all our voice traffic from 2022 as a baseline, we’ll soon be able to break this down to give organisations accurate data about their voice services. By working out their volume of traffic as a percentage of our whole, we’ll generate data on their power and carbon emissions for the year.
But we won’t stop there. This baseline will allow us to validate any further work we do to improve our sustainability. And, as we build up our new, transformed network, we’ll have even better data on components and the granularity of our data will improve. Plus, our vendors are well aware of our need for emissions data from them, and are also working hard to meet our needs, so improvements will come from that angle, too.
The end result will be a simple calculator tool that can take an organisation’s call types and volumes and work out what emissions they’re generating with their current supplier, and can then predict their emissions after they’ve moved to our evolved network. Plus, for our existing customers, we’ll be able to deliver accurate data on their emissions, including the impact of any upgrades they want to make.
No greenwashing. Just transparent, accurate data to support you on your sustainability journey.
To find out more about how we can help you build a sustainable global voice capability, visit our webpage.