Taking sustainability seriously in telecommunications – the triple bottom line is vital

The need to create organisations that are not simply efficient and profitable but also sustainable, is at the heart of the drive across the globe to improve corporate governance. However, developing sustainable business models goes beyond simply guaranteeing that a company is around for the next century, but rather about ensuring that its customers share in the same vision and mission. Furthermore, ensuring sustainability is not simply about making sure that the business can continue to generate revenues in the future, but it is equally about ensuring that companies do not exhaust the resources of the planet in the course of their activities.

Information Communication Technology (ICT) is crucial to building a dynamic and energy-lean future, less dependent on fossil fuels. Promoting ICT solutions based on broadband can help organisations to build a sustainable business model, as broadband plays a significant role in radically reducing emissions. In fact, during the past few years, the telecommunications industry has made concerted efforts to minimise the negative impact of its products and services on the environment. The one area where telecommunications has excelled is allowing all elements of society to lower their impact on the planet. In almost any circumstance, the implementation of a telecommunication solution will result in a lower environmental impact than if the same service had to be delivered without the assistance of telecommunications services. Although the industry does contribute to the total emissions of CO2, it is estimated that the saving delivered by the use of telecommunications services is ten times more than the CO2 the industry generates.

There are many factors to sustainable business, but certainly to address climate change and sustainability, a co-ordinated, multi-stakeholder approach is needed. Consumers, operators and vendors each have a key role to play, but without the support of policy makers and regulators, together with the use of technology, the problem will not be solved.
Taking complex telecommunication systems and optimising energy use at every step, focusing not just on any one product, but on helping operators to reduce the overall cost of ownership of their operations, with the lowest possible energy impact and carbon footprint, and encouraging sustainable development and access to communications for everyone everywhere, is the answer. Furthermore, by taking a holistic approach, networks can address their energy consumption and adhere to environmental regulations, which are becoming more strongly enforced at all times, as well as leverage credibility as an organisation, which focuses on the environment.

If a company does not deliver an equally sharp focus on the above, it runs the risk of finding that it is unable to compete effectively. As the pressure on companies to provide more accurate accounts of their sustainability increases, from both government and shareholders, investment in telecommunications can certainly assist organisations in achieving this.

The crux – sustainability is not just about the environment – it is the combination of the triple bottom line – people, profit and planet – all helping to make an industry sustainable.

Aingharan (Kutty) Kanagaratnam, MSc, is head of Network Solutions at Ericsson