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Exclusive: Sprint Toughens GHG Goal by 5% Under WWF Agreement

Sprint has upped its carbon reduction goal by five percentage points as it becomes one of just 28 companies to join the World Wildlife Fund’s Climate Savers program.

The company now aims to reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions by 20 percent by 2017, from a 2007 baseline.

In an exclusive interview with Environmental Leader, Amy Hargroves, Sprint’s general manager for corporate responsibility, said most of the 20 percent reduction will come from the company’s Network Vision program.

That initiative, announced in December, will see Sprint upgrade its existing wireless network infrastructure to integrate its 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum bands on single, multimode base stations. The project is expected to increase GHG emissions over the next three years, as old and new equipment work side-by-side, and then decrease emissions after the old hardware is decommissioned.

Sprint expects to spend $4-5 billion on the program from 2011 to 2017 and create $10-11 billion in net total value in that time, though the the company said that the savings won’t all come from energy efficiency.

But Hargroves said Network Vision’s carbon savings will be disproportionately large. She expects the program to deliver a 21.3 percent drop in CO2, allowing other initiatives to stick to their planned 15 percent carbon reduction.

Overall Hargroves said that 96 percent of Sprint’s scope 1 and 2 carbon reductions will come from indirect emissions, and 90 percent of carbon cuts will come from changes to the network.

But Sprint also said it is the first U.S. company that will address all scopes of greenhouse gas emissions through its Climate Savers agreement. The only other company to do so is Dutch telecoms firm KPN.

Other companies in the program include IBM, Nike, Johnson & Johnson, HP, Sony, Nokia, Coca-Cola, Supervalu, Tetra Pak, Novo Nordisk and Lafarge.

Under the agreement, Sprint will partner with device manufacturers and suppliers to measure, report and reduce their emissions. The partnership will address consumption from hardware, operating systems and applications. Sprint says it has already started working with manufacturers to reduce “bloatware” apps pre-loaded onto phones.

Sprint is also carrying out assessments to find ways it can reduce charging-related emissions. One major finding so far is that customers tend to leave their devices on all night. The energy waste here could be addressed with charging devices that shut off when phones reach full power, or through efficiency improvements in the phone itself, but Hargroves says, “My expectation is the user base is going to provide faster returns.”

She says the company might encourage customers to charge their phones in their car. First, she says, Sprint will need to confirm that such charging will draw from the car battery rather than the gas tank.

As part of its Climate Savers agreement, Sprint also said it will move beyond scope 3 emissions to “scope 4”: helping companies beyond its supply chain to reduce their emissions. This will include providing an engineering resource lab to help entrepreneurs test the market viability of their products, Hargroves said.

Last March, a Trucost analysis of Sprint’s supply chain carbon emissions said the company could realistically set a target for all of its suppliers to lower carbon emissions to the average for their sectors. If the five highest-emitting sectors were successful in meeting this goal, Sprint would reduce its absolute supply chain emissions by 13.5 percent, Trucost said

Hargroves said Sprint plans to continue using and refining the Trucost model.

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