Like AT&T, Verizon also recently released their 2010 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. Ma Bell’s report was called “Meet the Possibility Economy.” Verizon’s is called “Tackling the World’s To-Do List.” It sounds a bit ambitious to me, but if that’s what they intend to do, they can start with mine.
I described the AT&T report earlier this week. Let’s see how the two companies compare in their respective sustainability and CSR efforts.
Verizon’s 2010 revenue was $105.5 billion compared to AT&T’s $124 billion.
They handed out $66.8 million in community giving (0.06% of revenue) as compared to AT&T, which gave out $148.2 million (0.12% of revenue).
Verizon’s greenhouse gas emissions, which were 6.06 million metric tons (down 2.18% from 2009) beats AT&T (8.97 million) in absolute terms, per dollar of revenue and per terabyte of throughput. Their electrical energy consumption was 10.24 billion kWh. That’s a carbon-intensity efficiency of 130.27. AT&T’s was 415, more than three times as high. I don’t have enough information to explain the difference here, but it looks like AT&T has some catching up to do in this area. They also did not provide data on actual energy usage, only their rate per terabyte.
On the other hand, AT&T has a significant and growing solar energy program which Verizon does not have. I’ll say more about that later.
Both companies are developing applications for their mobile devices that improve quality of life, health, safety, and efficiency across many walks of life.
Verizon’s 2010 CSR report opens with a strong statement of corporate identity.
“We have work because our customers value our high-quality communications services. We focus outward on the customer, not inward. We make it easy for customers to do business with us, by listening, anticipating and responding to their needs. Everything we do is built on the strong foundation of our corporate values.”
Outgoing CEO Ivan Seidenberg said, “The actions in this report reflect Verizon’s steady, concerted efforts to use technology to address some of our society’s most urgent issues. More broadly, they are the latest steps in our continuing journey to expand the area of intersection between Verizon’s business interests and those of society as a whole.”
The company announced three major organizational initiatives this year:
- Establishment of a Corporate Responsibility Council—led by two senior officers, overseen by the board of directors and populated by leaders from across the business—to set priorities, performance targets and measurements.
- Creation of a Consumer Advisory Board and Strategic Alliances program to maintain a constant dialogue with our stakeholders and act as an early warning system for emerging issues and customer concerns.
- Initiation of Verizon’s first formal sustainability program under the leadership of a Chief Sustainability Officer. This initiative was highlighted in a previous Triple Pundit posting found here.
Some of the specific programs described in the 68-page report include:
- Expanding the content and reach of their Thinkfinity teacher resource website.
- Green initiatives aimed and reducing energy consumption including:
- Changes to office equipment such as the use of double-sided copying and recycled toner cartridges.
- The adoption of reusable shipping totes.
- Replacement of Styrofoam cups with reusable and paper ones.
- Development of a sustainability scorecard for suppliers.
Their HopeLine phone recycling and reuse program collected over 1.1 million phones. Of these, 87% were refurbished and the rest were recycled. Proceeds supported domestic violence survivors.
Recycling of telecommunications equipment and cell phones was down from the year before by 29.6% and 11.0% respectively. I would expect to see this go up in 2011 because of the number of people switching to smartphones. Paper and cardboard recycling, however, was up by 11.0%
The company has implemented vehicle fleet modifications that have resulted in the avoidance of 9.7 millions gallons of gas since 2008. In 2010, they purchased 1642 alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrids, CNG and biodiesel, bringing their alternative fleet up to a total of 1902.
These are all positive steps, but considering the fact the 89.5% of Verizon’s energy consumption came from electricity, presumably from the large server farms they operate, it would have been nice to hear more about efforts to reduce energy there, such as the virtualization services that they are offering their customers. Perhaps this is an area where they would be wise to eat their own cooking, as we used to say.
The report also includes a number of awards and mentions the company has received including:
- BBB Torch Award for Marketplace Excellence
- CR Magazine’s list of the top 100 best corporate citizens (ranked #27)
- Ranked #61 on the Maplecroft Climate Innovation Index (AT&T was #72)
- Received the Groundbreaker Award at the 2011 Clean Economy Summit for fostering the development and adoption of new technologies and business practices that advance a clean economy.
- Newsweek Magazine North American Green Rankings #99. (AT&T was #122), while hitting #45 on the Global list. (AT&T was #57)
- 2010 Eco-Leadership Award from the Alliance for Workplace Excellence for efforts to create an environmentally sustainable workplace.
They are also listed on a number of socially responsible investment lists including: Dow Jones Sustainability Index, FTSE4Good Index, Ethibel Sustainability Index, Calvert
Large Cap Value Fund, and NASDAQ Global Sustainability Index.
Both companies appear to be in the early stages of the sustainability journey, which runs from “do less harm,” to creating true sustainable value for and with stakeholders. Verizon is slightly ahead at this point, primarily, in this writer’s opinion because of their significantly higher energy efficiency. AT&T seems to be slightly farther along when it comes to tracking their water usage and in working with their supply chain. But if we step back for a minute and think about the possibilities for a wireless company, as AT&T has done, there are an ever-increasing number of ways that these providers can contribute real sustainable value. A big obstacle in the near term is the large amount of electricity that wireless network servers require to operate. Both companies would be wise to pay close attention to efficiency improvements in this technology. But it also seems to me that a server farm for a wireless network would be an ideal candidate to be located near a source of abundant renewable energy, such as solar or wind. This is an area where AT&T has taken a significant lead and Verizon would do well to follow.
RP Siegel is a regular contributor at Triple Pundit and co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water. Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.
Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.