Uniting for Climate Action: BT Group, Ericsson and Flex’s Journey Towards Net Zero in the Telecommunications Ecosystem
BT Group, a long-standing Ericsson customer and partner, has been a leader on climate and sustainability action for over 30 years, setting one of the world’s first science-based targets in 2008. In 2022, the company accelerated its climate action plan by pledging to be a Net Zero emissions business by the end of March 2031 for its operations (Scopes 1 and 2), and by the end of March 2041 for supply chain and customer emissions (Scope 3).
As members of the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, BT Group and Ericsson both recognise that reaching the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C will require collaboration across the value chain. BT Group has built a strong culture with its suppliers to cut carbon and last year approached Ericsson to see if the two companies could collaborate to reduce embodied carbon emissions across their value chain.
In 2022 BT Group and Ericsson started working together on how they might reduce carbon emissions across both their supply chains. Scope 3 emissions represent between 70-100% of total carbon emissions for operators, with the main contributors being services purchased and capital goods. Reductions in embedded carbon emissions of these services and goods play a key role to achieve Net Zero commitments.
Ericsson has set a supplier climate target for 350 high emitting and strategic suppliers to set their own 1.5°C aligned climate targets; manufacturing partner Flex is one such partner that's been on a sustainability journey for more than 20 years and joined the Science Based Targets initiative in 2021, aligning scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions reduction targets to the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. At the beginning of 2022, one of their factories in Poland switched over to 100% renewable energy, thus ensuring that Ericsson products manufactured for BT in this facility, would benefit from reduced embodied carbon emissions.
Of the 1.1 million products Flex has produced for Ericsson in Poland, 1,401 baseband units were shipped by Ericsson to BT Group. As Flex had already switched to renewable energy at its Tczew, Poland site, Flex and Ericsson estimated an 11k-tonne reduction in Flex’s scope 2 carbon emissions dedicated to Ericsson for 2022, which translates to a 14-tonne reduction in embodied carbon emissions for the 1,401 baseband units shipped to BT Group.
Although the reduction is relatively small in the context of Ericsson’s and BT Group’s value chain emissions, it illustrates how big initiatives translated to the product level can deliver concrete results. The carbon emissions reduction achieved now serves as a real-life example of the practicability of reducing Scope 2 and Scope 3 in complex sectors. It also serves as a model for large companies operating in other industries worldwide.
Gabrielle Ginér, Head of Environmental Sustainability at BT Group, has been championing environmental sustainability programmes at BT Group since 2009. “Working with suppliers and partners is key for most businesses to reduce their overall emissions and to reach net zero. BT Group is no exception, and through our partnership with Ericsson, we have demonstrated how collaboration can result in real emissions reductions from our supply chain.”
This initiative moved all three organisations involved closer towards their Net Zero targets. Ericsson was able to work with one of its strategic customers and manufacturers at the same time to get closer to achieving its supply chain goals. BT Group was able to deliver tangible results across not one, but two of its supply chain partners, and show the focus they put on environmental requirements when sourcing products and services. Flex showcased how their transition to renewable energy to lower CO2 emissions has a broader, positive impact across the value chain.
As Ericsson’s Head of Marketing, Communications and Sustainability for Europe and Latin America, Sally Croft is a staunch advocate for sustainable and responsible business. From making incremental efficiency improvements in our processes, to more profound shifts in mindset and technology to reduce carbon emissions, Sally believes that realizing meaningful change lies in collaboration across the entire value chain. “We are thrilled to be working with our suppliers and customers to build a more resilient and sustainable supply chain. This activity paves the way towards an industry ecosystem dedicated to tackling climate change.”
Kyra Whitten, Senior Vice President, Sustainability, and President, Flex Foundation, added, “Sustainability and close partnership must be prioritized throughout the value chain to accelerate climate action. We at Flex are firmly committed to embracing responsible, sustainable practices across our operations as we build great products for our customers, like Ericsson, and do our part to help address climate change.”
Achieving Net Zero calls for organizations to have holistic sustainability strategies, this is a clear step in the right direction and demonstrates how companies operating in the telecommunications ecosystem can cooperate to have a positive climate impact. Only through collective action can we as an industry achieve Net Zero.
Data showed that in 2021, Flex operations in Poland produced 1.1 million products per year for Ericsson, including 15,000 BB 6620 baseband units. Of these units, 1,401 were shipped by Ericsson to BT Group. Ericsson and Flex worked together to calculate the corresponding carbon emissions allocated to Ericsson in 2021, and extrapolated that figure to 2022. They estimated that these emissions amounted to 11 tonnes – 10kg per product when spread across 1.1 million products. Ericsson could predict an 11-tonne reduction in carbon emissions across Scope 2 for 2022 for these 1,401 units, corresponding to an 11-tonne reduction in carbon emissions for BT Group across Scope 3.
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