When you work in the telecommunications and technology industry for over two decades (like we have), you can forget that what you do impacts essentially every part of society. For example, we’re responsible for a large amount of energy use and carbon emissions. But with that awareness, we can take action when it comes to sustainability and the increasing drive for a net zero future.
Indeed, the telecommunications industry is critical for promoting a sustainable future. We can do this by assisting other industries achieve their net zero goals, and fostering innovation among ourselves to reduce carbon emissions in how we operate our organizations. We have the means and tools to do so, with all of the technologies at our disposal including Internet Of Things (IoT), public and private 5G networks, edge computing, and many other emerging technologies. Instead of contributing to the climate crisis as we did for many years, we can switch roles and enable sustainable practices across virtually every industry, and in the process allow them to contribute to a greener future as well.
Climate reports show that in near future, the collective industries of the world will need to reduce carbon emissions by as much as 50% by 2050. The telecommunications industry is well equipped to enable that lofty goal with its combination of technological innovations and business savvy.
All leaders have to remember that it’s no longer simply a business’s carbon footprint that is under question, but also the impact companies have on others, such as clients and suppliers across the whole value chain. As we move towards a net zero future, ESG has become essential for driving value and revenue, as shareholders are already starting to look to it as an indicator of future prosperity.
It’s true that for telecom firms, the climate crisis represents a challenge, but it also presents a serious opportunity – one that will help them to enact change through strategic, cross-industry partnerships, and maximize the return on their 5G investments.
In fact, our industry has a huge role in creating a greener future, especially when compared with other major industries. Because while telecom has good marks regarding energy consumption, which is approximately 0.6% of global electricity usage, we will ultimately increase the amount of energy we drain on the system with the coming rollout of 5G.
Those in our industry have to consider that although 5G delivers greater energy efficiency per gigabyte than 4G, many experts believe that 5G will drive data usage by 400%. As such, telecommunications companies have to include that increase in electricity into their sustainability goals.
The good news is that artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and other modern technologies will get energy efficiency into the positive side of the column once legacy systems have been officially shut down. On a related note, mobile and digital technologies will help manufacturing, power, transportation, and buildings cut 40% of their CO2 emissions. And much of that will be due to technology that’s central for today’s telecom business operations like Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G.
Sustainable and green business practices are noble acts in themselves, but 5G also provides profitable business opportunities for our industry. For example, we can leverage services as a value chain to promote expansion via new revenue models like Sustainability-as-a-Service and Mobile-as-a-Service. This business strategy achieves the twin goal of sustainability while increasing margins and profits. And when everyone benefits from a business practice, we can all feel better about the future.