Vodafone has said it will halve its carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, largely by making its networks more energy efficient.
The reduction is to be measured against Vodafone's emissions in the 2006/07 period, which came to 1.23 million tonnes of CO2, the company said. According to Arun Sarin, the company's chief executive, the move is "the right decision for a responsible business to take".
"It is good for the environment but also makes sense for the business," said Sarin on Monday. "It resonates from a financial perspective, as improving energy efficiency helps us to control costs. We have reviewed the options, including carbon offsetting, and have concluded that the most effective strategy is to cut our CO2 emissions directly. There are no simple solutions to what is a complex challenge but, through operational changes and technological innovation, we will focus on improving energy efficiency in our networks, which account for 80 percent of our emissions."
Vodafone recently entered into a network-sharing agreement with Orange but, according to a Vodafone spokesperson, this will not factor significantly into the CO2-reduction goals as the agreement covers the sharing of mast sites, rather than base-station equipment.
The spokesperson also said that Vodafone would be using renewable energies to contribute towards its goals — with the type of renewable energy depending on the country in question — and would only use carbon offsetting as a "last resort". The CO2 reductions will be measured in absolute terms, rather than being measured as relative to network traffic, the spokesperson stressed.
"This is a significant commitment from one of the world's largest companies," said Jonathan Porritt, founder of the Forum for the Future and an adviser for Vodafone on sustainability issues.
"With a simultaneous focus on the products and services that they offer — and thus on helping their customers to reduce their emissions — Vodafone has the opportunity to show real leadership. 2020 may sound a long way away, but it is what Vodafone does over the next two or three years which will determine whether or not they hit that 50 percent target," said Porritt.
Tom Delay, the chief executive of the Carbon Trust, also welcomed Vodafone's move, saying it was "what consumers expect and want to see from leading businesses in the UK and abroad".