Telcos and their journey to sustainability

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Sustainability has been a buzzword for more than just a few years now but there is still need for the world to grasp its meaning and the effect of its lack in our processes. As an adjective it signifies something that is “capable of being continued at a certain level”. Sustainability can perhaps be seen as the process(s) by which something is kept at a certain level. Nonetheless, nowadays, because of the environmental and social problems society is facing, sustainability is commonly used in a specific way.  Therefore, in simple words, Sustainability can be defined as the processes and actions through which humankind avoids the depletion of natural resources to keep an ecological balance so that the quality of life of society doesn’t decrease.

A good number among us has also started resorting to practices in our personal lives for a more sustainable living. We are largely doing this as a responsibility towards the future generations and on similar lines, we see a large number of organizations around the globe are increasingly becoming serious about this cause. To name a few, leading companies like Coca Cola has promised to replenish all the water it uses back to communities and nature, Starbucks is continuously committed towards making coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product and reduce the environmental impact of their stores. Recently leading clothing brand H&M also launched its first ever sustainability campaign where it has stores which aim to reuse or recycle items, rather than see customers throw them away.

Considering an increasing number of organizations targeting their efforts towards this cause past decade consciously saw a lot of sustainability rankings emerging. The leading ones amongst these are Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Newsweek Green Rankings and FTSE4Good. We see a lot of IT, tech and retail companies topping these charts. It was quite disappointing to see most of these ratings saw a significantly low no of telecom companies. With rising issues of climate change and resource depletion, going sustainable is not an option for companies anymore. For a corporate organization, a holistic definition of sustainable would mean corporate decisions that enable the management to successfully balance the 3 Ps of Profit, People and Planet in your organization.

In the last two decades, telecommunication has emerged as a key driver of economic and social development and hence contributes drastically to usage of existing resources in various forms. In a country like India, in order to achieve the Government’s vision of Digital India and Smart Cities etc., telecom infrastructure is the bedrock, as it is the backbone for facilitating connectivity across the wide geographical locations of India. Globally, advanced technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, IoT and virtual reality will also be significant contributors to develop a robust telecom infrastructure to address the growing need of data.

So what are Telecom Companies doing to go in conflict with sustainable living and how can they be environment friendly?


Telecom towers dot the urban landscape and all these towers use a significant amount of diesel for power, they also emit harmful radiation. We should look at minimum no. of towers being installed and also try and locate them in least populated areas. There is a constant surge in the number of energy guzzler data centres that require significant power for cooling as well. Hence we need to be mindful about these cropping up in every part of already polluted cities.

2. Waste

Telecom products generate mountains of e-waste. Mobile handsets, sim cards, wires & cables, batteries and assorted equipment are often repurposed by the refurbished goods[NG1] market, but many find their way into landfills or are taken apart by untrained people in unsafe ways. Many electronic devices contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic. If not handled properly, these can poison our environment and threaten the health of individuals and communities. We should try and innovate so as to minimize these wastes and also have stringent guidelines in place to handle them.

3. Customer Health

Health concerns about linkages between exposure to EMFs radiations from mobile phones and many health diseases ranging from sleep disorder, memory loss, cardiovascular to neurodegenerative diseases, such as cancer have been raised by medical professionals. We need to look at these closely and find ways to arrest ill effects of radiations or look at alternate greener methods to staying connected.

We need to find ways of having sustainability as a priority in all our professional and personal interactions with the nature, the sooner we realise the better we will be able to prepare ourselves and avoid depletion of already limited resources.

As an apt conclusion to this piece, I would like to borrow from one of my favourite authors, Paulo Coelho – “…The planet is, was, and always will be stronger than us. We can’t destroy it; if we overstep the mark, the planet will simply erase us from its surface and carry on existing…”

So let us do our bit to ensure we aren’t obliterated by the planet.

Telcos and their journey to sustainability
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Telcos and their journey to sustainability
As many sectors around the world are now adapting to a sustainable lifestyle, STL provides an easy guide for all telecommunication industries on implementing and managing various environment friendly practices to ensure we aren’t obliterated by the planet.
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