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June 05, 2001
Telecommunications Industry Calls for Sustainability
by Mark Thomsen
Some of the world's largest information and communications technology companies form an alliance to
promote sustainable development.
Some household names in the telecommunications industry, supported by the United Nations
Environment Programme and the International Telecommunications Union, are formalizing a cooperative
effort to promote sustainable business practices and technologies. The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) is officially being
launched today on the occasion of World Environment Day.
"At a time in history when
our technologies are bringing people closer together it follows that businesses also work together
to contribute to the societies within which they operate," said Chris Tuppen, Chair of the Interim
GeSI steering group. "The launch of GeSI will build on existing voluntary activities and act as the
focus for a global network of companies and organizations working on sustainability issues."
The GeSI's vision is "to help improve the global environment and to enhance human and economic
development, and thereby make a key contribution to a global sustainable future." Its activities
will focus on sharing best practices and knowledge, working with stakeholders, implementing
policies that support sustainability, conducting corporate environmental monitoring and
benchmarking, and raising awareness of how telecommunications can contribute to a more sustainable
The founders of the group include some of the biggest global players: AT&T (ticker: T), British Telecommunications plc (BTY),
Cable & Wireless plc (CWP), Deutsche Telekom AG (DT), Ericsson,
Lucent Technologies (LU), Marconi plc (MONI), Telcordia
Technologies , Telenor AS and the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association. Each
member of the group has something to offer in terms of recommendations of environment-friendly
Some have taken steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. British
Telecommunications, for example, has calculated that employee use of audio and video conferencing
saved over 150 million miles of travel in 2000, contributing to a total saving of saving of 1
million tons in CO2 emissions. At AT&T, increased teleworking by staff in 2000 cut car travel by
110 million miles, translating into a reduction of almost 50,000 tons in carbon dioxide emissions.
From 1996 to 2000, Deutsche Telekom reduced pollutant emissions from their vehicle fleet by 25
Reducing waste and increasing efficient energy use is another area where
telecommunications companies can make an impact. In December 2000, telecommunications hardware and
software supplier Marconi started a best practice "waste management project" at their Liverpool, UK
facility. They installed an auto waste-to-heat recovery system to burn waste and convert the heat
to usable energy. The benefits included less landfill, "free" hot water and lower carbon dioxide
emissions from the reduction in fuel transportation.
The member companies are also
beginning to adopt a "life-cycle" approach to their products. This approach looks at the
development and delivery of all products and services in terms of environmental impact, seeking to
minimize the use of natural resources in production and maximize reuse and recycling at the end of
the product's life. The firms are working closely with customers, suppliers, trade and industry
associations and standards organizations to develop and promote sustainable management systems and
Cable & Wireless, for example, has incorporated environmental criteria into its
Request for Quote document for all suppliers in the UK. Suppliers are asked for details about
their environment policy, management systems, main impacts, audits and regulatory compliance.
Over the next two years, the GeSI will support research on the role that information and
communications technology can play in advancing sustainable development. Members will also be
looking into how to disseminate their knowledge and experience in helping other firms achieve their
business goals while incorporating social and environmental responsibility.
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