Telstra is carbon neutral but found it hard to purchase Australian offsets

As well as offshoring jobs to India, Telstra has had to purchase Indian carbon credits.

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Image: APN Cape York

Telstra announced it was certified as carbon neutral on Thursday, with CEO Andy Penn stating it was well ahead of schedule and has taken on a mixture of carbon offset projects in Australia as well as India.

"Our experience has been that it is extremely difficult to purchase carbon offsets from projects located in Australia," Penn told the Trans-Tasman Business Circle.

"This is something that needs to be addressed because what it says is that there are not enough projects contributing to a reduction in greenhouse emissions."

In Australia, Telstra is supporting the Southern Aurukun Savanna Burning Project, which the telco said combines traditional knowledge and hardware such as helicopters, fireballs, and leaf blowers to reduce greenhouse emissions from patchwork burning on Wik and Kugu country. The company said savannah fires make up 3% of Australia's emissions and by undertaking burns in the early dry season, it reduces emissions from higher intensity, unmanaged fires later in the dry.

The other Australian project is the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Project in southwest Western Australia that is removing carbon from the atmosphere by replanting native species on disused, degraded, semi-arid agricultural land.

For its Indian offsets, the company has purchased credits from solar projects and wind farms. Telstra purchases renewable energy from the Murra Warra wind farm and Emerald solar farm in Australia.

Penn said climate change was a "perfect example" of an area where businesses should take action since they make large contributions to emissions.

"This period of COVID has provided a chance to experience our world as a quieter environment and under clearer skies. If ever there was encouragement for bolder and more significant action on climate, it is now," he said.

On the pandemic, the Telstra CEO said the economy became more digital in three months than it had in the previous five years.

"What this tells me is that previous constraints to our progress were less to do with the technology itself but rather our ability and willingness to adopt it," Penn said.

"COVID has accelerated digital adoption for Telstra and our customers' interaction with us -- something that before Covid was taking years to achieve.

"In fact, before COVID, around 50% of consumers contacted us through digital options, now this is more than 70%. We have also seen almost 4 million customers download the My Telstra app during COVID in a period of just 8 weeks."

Penn said that the lockdowns in India and the Philippines that arrived in March were still having an impact, and apologised for any delays.

"Our aspiration is that by the end of our T22 program all inbound calls from these customers to us will be answered in Australia," he said.

"This is turn will enable our teams in the Philippines and India to continue to support our digital experiences."

During the lockdown in Australia, Telstra committed to pausing job cuts under its T22 plan, as well as shifting forward AU$500 million of capital expenditure slated for the second half of the next fiscal year into the calendar 2020 year, and suspending late payment fees and disconnections.

"If there was ever any lingering belief in the Friedman theory that the sole purpose of companies is to focus only on its shareholders, it has been finally put to rest. Community trust in the corporate sector had reached a new low point at the end of the last decade, and yet in a short space of time more and more corporates are standing up on important issues," he said.

"Companies are demonstrating they understand the expectations upon them and our responsibility to the communities in which we operate. Thoughtful companies realise they will only be successful for their shareholders if their customers, employees and communities enjoy success too."

Lastly, Penn said the industry advisory panel he is chairing as part of the Commonwealth's Cyber Security Strategy review has passed 60 recommendations over to the government, and it would be tabled in the next few weeks.

In May, Telstra said it had stepped up its DNS filtering capabilities in an effort to fight malware passing through its network.

Dubbed as Cleaner Pipes, the initiative focuses on blocking command and control communications of botnets, the downloading of remote access trojans, as well as other forms of malware. The telco said it is already blocking "millions of malware communications" when the traffic hits its infrastructure.

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