In Focus

“Intensive dialogue with ICT manufacturers is important to us”

Interview with Luis Neves, Deutsche Telekom AG

Industry has a key role to play in reducing ICT-related electricity consumption and emissions. In this interview with eco@work, Luis Neves, Group Representative for Climate Change and Sustainability Officer at Deutsche Telekom AG, describes the steps the company is taking to make its products, networks and data centres more sustainable. He outlines some of the practical measures being adopted and the challenges ahead. Luis Neves is also Chairman of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), a business platform which aims to be a driver of the ICT sustainability agenda.

Mr Neves, what is Deutsche Telekom doing to reduce electricity consumption and emissions from its telecommunication networks and data centres?
At the end of 2013, Deutsche Telekom set a group-wide climate protection target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. We are deploying energy-efficient technologies in our network expansion and cutting emissions from our data centres, mainly by introducing new and efficient systems. Renewables use can also have a significant leveraging effect. That’s an issue that we are exploring at present as we revise our climate strategy.

Can you tell us about some of the specific measures and how effective they are?
We are switching the landline network to the new all-IP standard, for example. We expect this to save around 260 kilotonnes of CO2 by 2020 compared with the 2008 baseline. And in our data centres, we rely primarily on fresh air cooling systems and optimised air conditioning, and we are driving the global consolidation of our operations at a few highly efficient data centres. We are also modernising our mobile data network, making it more efficient. We expect this modernisation of the mobile data network and of our technological systems to yield a 44 per cent reduction in average electricity consumption at our transmitter stations.

What are the greatest challenges in reducing electricity consumption and emissions?
ICT is fundamental to our globalised world. Data volumes are constantly increasing, so network expansion is essential, and that drives up electricity consumption. That’s why we need these efficiency measures in order to reduce CO2 emissions as planned. Implementing new technologies and steadily increasing the efficiency of existing technologies also pose major challenges.

On the subject of ICT products, we know that extending service lives is key to improving the carbon and energy footprint. But customers are offered regular upgrades, especially the latest smartphones. How can we reconcile their lifestyle choices with environmental performance?
Intensive dialogue with ICT manufacturers is important to us in ensuring that the handsets become ever more sophisticated and sustainability is built into the entire product life cycle as a priority. Together with the manufacturers, we are safeguarding sustainability along the supply chain and in life cycle management.

Which approaches is Deutsche Telekom pursuing in this area with a view to increasing sustainability?
We focus on achieving a sustainable supply chain, for example. Via the E-TASC project – which stands for “Electronics – Tool for Accountable Supply Chains”, we exchange supplier-related information with other businesses and thus attempt to minimise sustainability risks. Deutsche Telekom is also a provider of low-energy, low-radiation DECT telephones, which have been awarded Blue Angel certification. And with the Universal Power Adapter project, we aim to ensure that in future, one universal adapter can be used for a variety of electronic devices. This extends the products’ lifespan and reduces waste. And of course, conflict minerals are a key issue. Deutsche Telekom is actively engaged here within the GeSI framework and supports the Conflict-Free Smelter Program, which aims to increase transparency.

Thank you for talking to eco@work.

The interviewer was Christiane Weihe.