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Top telcos sustainable in-house, but not for customers

serverDespite winning plaudits for their internal sustainability achievements, Europe’s top telecom operators aren’t providing their customers with a compelling range of sustainable telecom offerings, according to new research from Verdantix.

The analyst firm reached that conclusion after comparing the internal sustainability strategies with the market-facing products and servcies of AT&T, BT, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, TeliaSonera, Verizon and Vodafone.

“Among Europe’s leading telecoms operators only Orange stands out as a firm that has made deep and broad commitments to launch innovative sustainability offerings for their customers,” said David Metcalfe, a veteran of the telecom industry and director of Verdantix. “BT and Deutsche Telekom have impressive sustainability programmes for their internal operations addressing issues like energy efficiency, fleet fuel consumption and carbon reductions. But there is little evidence that Europe’s telcos as a whole make meaningful contributions to their customers’ sustainability goals.”

Verdantix assessed the telcos on 53 criteria using its proprietary Green Quadrant® methodology, which places the operators into three categories:

  • Leaders — Due to its Board-level commitment to investing in sustainability solutions, proven customer successes and sustainability-focused extensions to existing offerings, Orange is the only operator in the Leaders’ quadrant. Its internal sustainability performance is sufficient to satisfy customers’ environmental procurement criteria, which are now a standard requirement across the market;
  • Potential leaders — Four firms could play a leadership role in 2010, Verdantix finds. BT, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Vodafone have long-standing strategic commitments to internal sustainability initiatives spanning data centre energy efficiency, carbon reductions and fleet fuel efficiency. To improve their competitive positioning, these firms need to leverage in-house sustainability expertise to offer customers a better range of sustainability products and services;
  • Laggards — Companies in this category need to clarify their sustainability strategies. AT&T, Telecom Italia, TeliaSonera and Verizon lag behind their European peers’ internal sustainability programmes and customer-facing sustainability offerings. These operators need to upgrade their sustainability management teams, apply a sustainability lens to initiatives like energy efficiency and make public commitments on CO2 reductions.

“Telecoms operators have made a huge miscalculation about the issues that interest their customers with respect to sustainability programmes,” Metcalfe said. “What interests customers is a broad range of innovative sustainability solutions that help them to reduce their energy costs, cut emissions from air travel and migrate to low-carbon operations. Customers are not really interested in the detail of telcos’ own CO2 reduction plans, the completeness of CSR reporting, charity sponsorships and the introduction of fuel efficient fleets. Customers plan to spend money with solutions innovators not with the best corporate citizens.”

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