Yesterday, Verizon Communications released its 2008/09 Sustainability Report, titled “Doing the Work.” The new report outlines Verizon’s accomplishments and challenges regarding the company’s five strategic CSR priorities: ethics and governance, service and innovation, empowering employees, protecting the environment, and partnering with communities.
The 56-page report is very user friendly, particularly the section called “Holding Ourselves Accountable,” where the company lays out its five priorities and lists “Our Focus,” “What We Said We’d Do,” “What We Did,” and “What We’ll Do Next.” For instance, on the topic of protecting the environment, Verizon says it is focused on minimizing the impact of its operations by conserving energy, recycling, and finding solutions to environmental challenges. Last year, the company said it would promote research on how broadband can help minimize environmental impact, and so it funded a study that found that information communications technology (ICT) can reduce carbon emissions up to 22% by 2020 and reduce dependence on foreign oil by 36%. In the future, Verizon plans to conduct “smart building” technology trial to gauge internal savings and potential for new product lines.
Other highlights of the company’s commitment to the environment include:
- Verizon decreased overall CO2 intensity from 66.5 metric tons of emissions per million dollars of revenue to 64.4 metric tons per million dollars of revenue. Its total energy reduction measures in 2008 reduced greenhouse-gas emissions by 83,900 metric tons.
- In 2008, the company’s “Go Paperless” campaign replaced 97 million paper bills with paperless billing, saving an estimated 2,150 tons of paper.
- Verizon conducted a successful pilot project to install software that automatically senses when computers are not in use and puts them in "sleep" mode. Full rollout of this program in 2009, covering approximately 100,000 computers will deliver $7 million in energy savings.
- Verizon has the second-largest private fleet of vehicles in the U.S., and in 2008 the company saved 1 million gallons in fuel consumption by simply cutting vehicle idling. The company also doubled the number of hybrid sedans in the fleet to 200.
- Effective Jan. 1, Verizon established an Energy Star-like standard for telecom equipment, requiring the company's vendors to provide equipment that is 20% more energy efficient than the previous generation of equipment.
In addition, last year the company used its long-running “HopeLine” program to collect 1.13 million used wireless phones. These phones are either refurbished and donated to victims of domestic violence, or they’re refurbished and sold, helping to generate more than $1.5 million in cash grants to nearly 350 domestic violence agencies and organizations in 2008 alone.
While HopeLine is a great initiative that ingeniously combines recycling/reusing with Verizon’s CSR priority to partner with the community, in terms of recycling, I’d like to see more from the telecommunications sector, as a whole. (After all, the EPA estimates that consumers recycle only about 10% of cell phones each year. If the 100 million cell phones that are no longer used annually were recycled, there would be enough energy saved to power more than 18,000 households for a year.) And, wouldn’t it make ecological (and business) sense for the industry to develop a cell phone battery charging system that was universal across brands, or at least models?