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Verizon Changes CO2 Intensity Metric

Verizon has developed a carbon efficiency metric that it claims will allow it to accurately quantify the impact of all its environmental initiatives for the first time.

The company’s sustainability office developed and tested the carbon intensity metric over the past 12 months, with tests showing a resulting 15 percent improvement in the company’s carbon efficiency, from 2009 to 2010. The company has a goal of increasing its carbon efficiency by 15 percent this year.

The metric combines Verizon’s total carbon emissions (in metric tons) resulting from its use of electricity, building fuels and vehicle fuels. This is then divided by the number of terabytes of data that the company transports across its network.

Previously, Verizon used metric tons of CO2 emitted per million dollars of revenue (see chart).

Verizon transported 78.6 million terabytes across its network in 2010, an increase of about 16 percent over 2009 levels. One terabyte equals about 300 feature-length movies.

Verizon says the new metric will help it to improve energy conservation and efficiency, as demand for broadband, IP network services, wireless data and video rapidly increases and raises the company’s electricity consumption.

“We want to make sure our sustainability claims are backed up by solid methodology and numbers that we can share with everyone,” said James Gowen, chief sustainability officer for Verizon. “We developed this metric because we are a network company, and our core measure is the amount of information we transport on our network. So this ratio is closely aligned with our business and will allow us to assess how we are becoming more energy efficient even as our business expands.”

“The information transmitted over Verizon’s networks every day is already equivalent to 215 million copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and customers want more,” said Jeremy Symons, senior vice president at the National Wildlife Federation.  “It requires a lot of energy to deliver all that data.  By setting a goal of a 15 percent carbon-efficiency improvement for 2011, Verizon is helping to minimize the carbon footprint of the digital age even as customers ask for more services.”

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3 thoughts on “Verizon Changes CO2 Intensity Metric

  1. This metric is not new; lots of companies their emissions totals by say amount of product or sq yards sold etc, or sales $. All of these suffer from the same problem- If “production” goes up they look good even tho no reductions have been made. Thus they are useful to that company but to no one else. The only metric that matters is absolute reductions. Indexing is just a game.

  2. On top of this, it would be very interesting to calculate the avoided emissions that all that data represents (ie, downloading movies instead of driving to see one, or smart meter data sent over the wireless network). The GHG Protocol Initiative put out a tool for doing just this a couple of months ago, but I’ve yet to see it really put into action.

  3. They need to include the emissions associated with the backup boxes and wireless routers that they place in customers’ homes. 5 million FIOS customers equals more than 500,000 metric tons of CO2 just from the battery backup units (that cannot be turned off or unplugged no matter what).

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