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Verizon's First Sustainability Report is...a Good First Step

Words by Scott Cooney
Leadership & Transparency
Verizon, one of the world's largest telecommunications companies, announced this week that it will cut its carbon intensity in half by 2020. Carbon intensity is usually referred to as a measure of CO2 produced per unit of output (in dollar terms). Verizon is using carbon intensity to measure "energy use per terabyte of data flowing through our networks." In the first combined company sustainability and annual report, Verizon says it has a "responsibility to be an effective steward of natural resources and have integrated that commitment into every facet of our business." The company outlined several CSR strategies, among them energy efficiency and health care. Health care? Verizon? The company sees large growth opportunities and is optimistic about synergizing its 4G LTE software with the health insurance provider Wellpoint to provide better health care to patients. In addition, the company is making a solid financial decision to cut its energy usage, and is emphasizing that its sustainability initiatives are building shareholder value. It has already reduced its carbon intensity 30% since 2009, the same year it's using as a benchmark for its 2020 goals to reduce energy intensity by 50%. But if they've already reached 30% in just the first three years, why only an additional 20% reduction in the next 8? The company has committed to reducing the 41 million gallons of fuel it consumes through its 38,000 vehicle fleet, as well. The company's goals include having 15% of its fleet running on alternative fuels by 2015, and according to the report, they're halfway to this target with the addition of more than 650 alternative fuel vehicles last year. These days, with companies announcing incredible strides in sustainability initiatives, Verizon's goals seem, well, lackluster. Saving energy? Reducing fuel? Synergizing for business benefit? Still seems like a fairly single bottom line approach, and even their cause marketing efforts and corporate philanthropy are fairly standard for large companies. Not to knock Verizon, I appreciate what they're doing, but there would appear to be much larger opportunities out there. One of the largest problems in any technology company is planned obsolescence, and the fact that most electronics have a very short life compared to the life of their ingredients, many of which are hazardous. Verizon has collected 4.3 million phones for recycling since 2008, though this number may be a very small percentage of the total Verizon phones in circulation during this time, so it would be nice to see this in the report--what percentage recovery are they achieving? ______________________ Scott Cooney blogs on green business strategies for startups at www.GreenBusinessOwner.com. Mark your calendars for the upcoming webinar May 2nd on strategies for shopkeepers, managers, and customers to help reduce global plastic bag usage. Click here to find out more and take a 1 minute survey to help us develop plastic bag reduction strategy information. Follow Scott on Twitter.