It's fun to think of similes to categorise the headlong rush towards CO2 reductions or at least the pledges for such. I think of Vodafone's pledge of a 50% cut of the 2007 baseline by 2020 as a 'Big Adventure'. They have not yet clearly identified how they will get there yet but get there they will, by hook or by crook, or at least by offset as a last resort. Visionary or foolhardy? You decide.
I had a really good conversation with Vodafone's Sustainability Supremo, Chris Burgess about this pledge recently. It's worth saying that Vodafone is a class act on sustainability performance and consistently delivers one of the best Sustainability programmes and public reporting regime in Europe if not globally.
Vodafone has indeed done its homework and identified at least three inroads: network unit efficiency, purchase of renewable energy and the deployment of alternative energy sources to power their network equipment. For example, solar and wind powered relay transmitters. This last tactic actually may make a ton of sense in any case for operations in developing markets where the national power grids may already be under supplied or have unreliable performance.
But speaking of which: in calculating the baseline and targets Vodafone has excluded it's operations in India. It recently acquired Hutchison Essar in India as the basis for its future operations there and they feel it is still too early to tell what the CO2 profile will look like there in the future. Also not included is the CO2 performance of Verizon in which Vodafone holds a 45% share. All this not withstanding, Chris actually expects CO2 emissions will increase relatove to the established baseline in the next few years before starting to decline.
It is important for companies like Vodafone take leadership even if the road ahead is not yet clear. Vodafone is not waiting around idly for regulatory certainty or even for market certainty on the availability of renewable energy sources. The climate situation is more urgent than that and private sector leadership is necessary now not later. Vodafone steps forward and already ripples are moving out across their vast ecosystem. For example, Chris related how the main suppliers at a recent Vodafone supplier conference had already on boarded the message on CO2 performance and were already incorporating their ideas into concrete proposals with little more prodding from Vodafone than the initial press release.
So is this a 'big' or 'big-ish' adventure for Vodafone? Though it is hard to tell just how high the hurdle really is for Vodafone and what the road map really looks like at this stage, I am in the former rather than the latter camp. Jonathon Porritt says we will know within three years whether they can make the 2020 goal or not. At the very least we should applaud Vodafone for taking a stand. Off sets are always there in the back pocket if the wheels come off the plan and this also gives Vodafone the confidence to at least own the target one way or another. Bravo.
BT, though, have announced an 80% cut but that will take another post to unravel.