AT&T Exceeds Aggressive Energy Reduction Goal

AT&T recently released their 2010 sustainability report entitled “Meet the Possibility Economy.” The 82-page report is upbeat and forward-looking and as the title suggests, it focuses more on possibilities than on accomplishments.

(Verizon also recently released their CSR report which will be reviewed later this week).

AT&T, which took in $124 billion last year, (up $1.5 billion from 2009) reported greenhouse gas emissions that, at 8.97 million metric tons, were essentially flat from the year before. Community giving ($148.2M, or 0.12% of revenue) was down for the second consecutive year. The portion of the workforce represented by unions fell from 60% to 58% and workplace injuries and occupational illnesses were up sharply. On the other hand, investment in network disaster recovery increased from $500 to $600M. Training outlays and tuition reimbursement also increased over the prior two years.

On a brighter note, the company has added 2500 alternative fuel vehicles to their fleet (mostly CNG and hybrid) which resulted in the displacement of one million gallons of gasoline. They intend to purchase up to 8,000 CNG vehicles by 2013 and an additional 7000 passenger vehicles that use alternative fuel through 2018.

They also increased solar energy production to 2.85 GWh, a 42% increase for the year.

Perhaps most impressive was the fact that not only did they exceed their 2010 goal of a 16% reduction electric power consumption  per terabyte, achieving 415 kWh (a 16.6% reduction), but they have committed to reduce consumption by an additional 17% (relative to data growth on their network) for 2011.

Also noteworthy is their commitment to greening their supply chain by allocating 50% or more of their total spend with suppliers who track their GHG emissions or who have explicit plans to do so by EOY 2012. They teamed up with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Supply Chain Initiative to understand how to do this.

The company also announced a number of goals and initiatives on the consumer side of the business, including:

• Reduce packaging, use non-petroleum-based inks and use recycled materials in documentation

• Have a majority of products comply with the GSMA Universal Charging Solution

• Attain 75 percent of products that meet a recyclability rate of at least 65 percent

• Comply with the EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) standard for reduction of hazardous substances

• Create uniform/standardized handset boxes that reduce current box size by 20 percent across the majority of handset portfolio

• Develop/design a free “eco awareness” device application to create customer awareness of sustainability

In 2010, AT&T also launched the Samsung Evergreen—a quick messaging phone built with 70 percent recycled post-consumer plastics in its casing and packaging that uses 80 percent recycled post-consumer paper.

One item that was of particular interest to me was the work they did with supplier, Superior Communications, to introduce the world’s first zero draw charger that automatically cuts the power supply from a wall socket when it senses that a mobile phone is not connected to the charger, thereby effectively confronting the “vampire load” problem that Americans spend billions on annually. The AT&T ZERO Charger became one of AT&T’s top 10 best selling accessories in 2010.

In another collaboration with the CDP, AT&T also intends to introduce measurement tools that can be used to calculate the environmental impacts of information and communications technology that can be used to eliminate the need for travel. They also intend to demonstrate how data center energy efficiency, driven by adoption of cloud computing, can help cut emissions and achieve business benefits, estimating that by 2020, large U.S. and U.K. businesses could cut GHG emissions equivalent to that of more than 1 million passenger vehicles. Over the same period, those businesses could also achieve financial benefits approaching $19 billion.

From an organizational perspective, AT&T’s sustainability program rests on these eight pillars:

  • Product stewardship
  • Supply chain
  • Waste management
  • Diversity
  • Community engagement
  • Consumption
  • Social policy
  • Innovation

Of course, these categories often overlap. For example, in a story that has elements of both innovation and community engagement, they provided M2M technology for tracking water supplies in Haiti after the earthquake. This led to more efficient distribution of water to areas where it was most needed. This is similar to what HP has done in Botswana in the battle against malaria.

In other areas, innovation impacts consumption. Affiliated Auto Glass, for example, uses AT&T i-Trak Fleet Manager™ GPS technology to provide more efficient routing for their fleet vehicles, saving gas, because one way to save energy is to work smarter.

AT&T also developed communication technology for a partnership between Petra Solar and NJ’s PSEG which mounts SunWave™ solar panels atop telephone poles all across the state which will eventually combine to provide 40 MW of electric power with smart grid capability.

In the medical arena, mHealth is a specific solution in development for diabetes that will allow patients to enter their blood sugar reading into a system where nurses and doctors can see them.

The company also developed an energy scorecard for their 500 most energy-intensive facilities. Each facility was given an Energy Star™ trained energy champion. This has resulted in 4200 projects with an annualized savings of $44 million, implemented with the help of the EDF Climate Corps, Energy Star and the US DOE Save energy Now program.

This was the first year that AT&T began tracking its water usage, an effort that the company undertook with the help of a team from Vanderbilt University, using (after trying several) the GRI Water Protocol. Their analysis helped the company prioritize their water reduction efforts, both from the standpoint of the facilities and their locations.

Overall, there is a lot of good stuff in here, though little that rises to AT&T’s legendary status as an innovator in an area where so much is at stake. Plus, an awful lot of what is here is in the to-be-done column. Let’s hope that changes in next year’s report where some of today’s possibilities become tomorrow’s accomplishments.

Stay tuned for a write up Verizon’s CSR report in Part 2.


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.

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RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, and among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner of the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.Contact:

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