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Partnering across the Supply Chain to Create Sustainable Change

All over the world, IT is playing an increasingly important role – in both business and individuals’ private lives. This increased demand also means increased energy and CO2 emissions. Yet, with the convergence of IT and telecommunications, this presents an unprecedented opportunity for the information and communication technologies (ICT) industry to leverage its size, innovation and reach to lead the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to help mitigate global climate change.

We recently hosted a roundtable discussion with a cross-section of key leaders from business, non-government organizations and government discussing that critical issue:  How can we make the telecommunications industry greener? The conversation sparked a spirited dialogue and provided valuable insights, including:

  • The industry cannot wait for consumers to demand green products. According to ABI Research, nearly half of mobile consumers are likely to be influenced by suppliers’ green credentials when purchasing services or devices. And while consumer demand drives business decisions, a clear opportunity exists for businesses to be the change agents to expand demand for green products.

  • Service providers must work with suppliers and retailers to create a green infrastructure. While ICT companies are working across the supply chain to source components from post-recycled plastics and to create more eco-friendly packaging, the entire telecom industry will benefit from stronger partnerships. Amy Thomson, Verizon’s group manager for sustainability, said it best by asserting that “competitive synergies are good for everyone.” Environmental stewardship succeeds when companies work together. For example, when a manufacturer and an operator team up to create set-tops that are 30 percent more energy efficient, the benefits are two-fold: the equipment provides a better viewing experience for customers who have lower energy consumption and lower utility bills.

  • Through a mix of regulation and voluntary programs, governments can help reinforce change. While government-induced financial incentives and tightened environmental regulations would help spur the development and adoption of greener technologies, voluntary programs such as ENERGY STAR and LEED can also serve as drivers for corporate change and consumer activism.  Working with governments to develop guidelines and certifications to communicate different stages and levels of energy efficiency and sustainability increases education and awareness for consumers around green technologies. It also enhances consumer choice.

  • Companies’ reputations will continue to be judged by how well they adapt to the green economy. For many companies, involvement in the “green” movement isn’t just about creating a line of “green products.” It’s about incorporating this into their DNA. How can we continue to reduce the power used by devices?  How can we incorporate smart grid technologies? How can we create a cable box that uses 20 percent less energy? This not only will be good for business but also ultimately for the environment.

Collectively, we must proactively address the issues that surround sustainability — from how we source materials to recycling products at end of life.  And those companies first to connect with environmentally conscious operators and consumers will gain the competitive edge.

Bill Olson is director of the Office of Sustainability and Stewardship for Motorola Mobile Devices, leading a key corporate initiative named ECOMOTO. In his role, Bill drives go-to-market strategy for green mobile device products and technologies, and has championed the adoption of ECOMOTO principals across several Motorola business units. ECOMOTO focuses on the realization of environmentally sound, seamless Motorola mobile products and seeks to deliver sustained business impact through green materials and innovative ecodesign practices.

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