Australia’s Telstra Cuts Greenhouse Gases by 11% by Focusing on Efficiency and Renewables

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by | Jun 10, 2022

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PixabayTelstra is one of Australia’s leading telecommunications companies. Its mobile network covers 99.5% of the country’s population. It set out on a quest in 2016 to make the company as sustainable as possible — a mission it has incorporated into its “Responsible Business Strategy.” That conforms with what Australians expect of it — to protect the planet while serving its customers. 

To that end, it set out to become neutral and did so in July 2020. Now, the goal is to maintain that neutrality as it grows. It also aims to reuse and recycle devices and packaging. The strategy also seeks to align its suppliers with the same sustainability principles it has been following. 

“We do these things because they are the right thing to do because they align with our company purpose and values and because they are the sort of things Australians trust Telstra to do in good times and bad,” says John Mullen, chairman of Telstra and Andrew Penn, its CEO, in the company’s 2021 Sustainability report. 

Everyone in the company is involved — from the engineers to the C-Suite. The Telstra Board is responsible for overseeing the progress. 

The Goals and Progress 

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) are key to its mission — both internally and externally and among its stakeholders. Indeed, the company says that stakeholder engagement is the foundation of its approach to sustainability. It has set out to expand its outreach, and in 2021 it exceeded its expectations: it communicated with 70% of its key community stakeholders and 100 domestic and foreign institutional investors. 

Climate change remains at the top of its foremost concerns. Now, though, it will also focus on resource efficiency, environmental risk, and compliance. As such, Telstra is involved in various organizations: the Australian Packaging Covenant, CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), and Science-Based Targets Initiative. 

“At Telstra, we see technology as an enabler of action on (sustainability goals),” says the sustainability report. 

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals has 17 goals and 169 targets — aimed at many things but, for purposes of this discussion, sustainability. In 2016, Telstra set out to conform to these goals and wrote some of them into its Responsible Business Strategy. Beyond wanting to connect all Australians to modern technologies and infrastructure, the company is specifically interested in responsible consumption and production and climate action. 

As a leading provider and user of telecommunications hardware, it wants to ensure that those resources are reused or recycled and do not end up in landfills. It is investing heavily in the “circular economy” — part of its 2016 mission to breathe new life into the planet. 

It hits goals of ensuring 100% of Telstra’s branded packaging is made up of renewable or recycled materials. As part of the same strategy, it wants to reuse or recycle 500,000 mobile phones, modems, and other devices by 2025. It also intends to increase its network waste recycling rate to 85% by the same time. 

As one of the most influential companies in Australia, it is committed to mitigating its impact on the environment. It set course in 2016 to become carbon neutral by 2030, and it hit that target in July 2020. It did so by increasing its use of renewable energy. Telstra says that it has enabled “renewable energy generation equivalents” to reach 100%. By that, it is offsetting its use of fossil-fired fuels by buying credits so that others have access to green energy.

Specifically, it has purchased 3.4 million credits over the last two years. In 2021, it bought 855,000 carbon credits to counteract its emissions. 

The telecommunications provider also wants to halve emission levels by 2030. To help it achieve that goal, it has invested $8.6 million to reduce energy usage at its data centers. This investment has helped it save 19,335 megawatt/hours of electricity per annum. 

In 2021, it says it achieved a 7% reduction in its scope 1 (direct emissions) and 2 (purchased energy) greenhouse emissions compared to the previous year. It was 11% when compared to its baseline year of 2019. This success has been done by improving its energy efficiencies, reducing emissions intensity, and increasing the use of renewables. There is a lag time when reporting scope 3 emissions, which takes into account its suppliers.

Spreading the Impact 

Telstra says that its scale allows it to impact its supply chain. In 2021, it says that it engaged with 4,900 suppliers from 96 countries. It also says that about 78% of its “spend” was with its top 100 suppliers. It “emphasizes” its environmental mission throughout its network. 

“We recognize that climate change and environmental sustainability are the defining challenges of the decade and we have a responsibility to act,” says the report. “We are committed to leading by example and using our scale and voice to help drive better environmental outcomes.” 

Telstra wants to build on the goals it first laid out in 2016. Its present-day Responsible Business Strategy is focused on tackling climate change and reducing its emissions. To do so, the provider is purchasing carbon offsets and using its resources more sustainably and efficiently. 

The Australian government awarded Telstra with a carbon-neutral certificate in July 2020. It is vowing to maintain that certificate in the future by improving the energy efficiency of its network sites, exchanges, and data centers. Its emissions reduction target is to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in alignment with the Paris climate agreement. It says it is on track to cut those emissions in half by 2030. It says it will use the best available science to build resilience and continue to achieve its goals. 

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