Tackling carbon and investment in alternative energy has helped Verizons quest for sustainability, but theres no silver bullet.
Verizon Communications may have had its origins in Bell System, America’s original telephone company. But today the largest mobile network in the US – with 144 million customers for its broadband, TV and wireless data services – has more in common with the tech giants of our age than the clunky rotary dial telephones, switches and copper wires that dominated telecommunications only a few decades ago.
Supply chain sustainability
Verizon’s sustainability journey began in 2009. Chief sustainability officer and vice-president of supply chain operations James Gowen had already been working on energy efficiency improvements in the company’s supply chain, with responsibility for $2.5bn in procurement.
“I did all the purchasing, I was responsible for transportation and I paid the electricity bill,” said Gowen. “I had the biggest opportunity to make a change. I was not an environmentalist by trade, but in the last three and a half years, I have gained a tremendous respect for sustainability and I’ve seen a transformation in myself.”
That year, Verizon established the industry’s first energy standards for its supply chain that required new equipment be at least 20% more energy efficient than the equipment it replaced.
Gowen said this was “low hanging fruit” but the impact on the industry was far-reaching as other telecom companies began using the new, more energy-efficient components.
Last year, Verizon went further by establishing a new supply chain goal to devote 40% of supplier spending by 2015 to firms that measure and set targets to reduce carbon emissions.
“This was not about checking off a box and making sure we did what regulators would want us to do, or what NGOs would be encouraging us to do,” said Gowen, “We wanted to do things that made sense for our business.”