Sustainability experts say that the core principle behind the practice is meeting the present generation's needs while magnifying systems that are self-replenishing and minimize negative environmental impact.
This ensures that the needs of future generations can also be met when the time comes. If sustainability is to be a profound commitment to shaping a future where today's actions don't compromise the well-being of tomorrow’s population, it must transcend its current status as a buzzword. It needs to be a moral compass guiding us towards a future where our present actions harmonize with the welfare of generations to come.
At the forefront of this call-to-arms to "go green" stand Multinational Corporations (MNCs), particularly telecom operators. They shoulder a distinctive responsibility because they are powerful players with the potential to drive significant change. Beyond the monetary aspect, they are often instigators of resource depletion, making their commitment to sustainability imperative for the preservation of our planet. Consuming approximately 2% to 3% of the world's energy, telcos possess both the financial wherewithal and, arguably, the ethical obligation, to address sustainability concerns.
The Environmental Echo
Since telco operations have a discernible effect on the earth and leave a heavy environmental footprint, that impact demands a recalibration of industry practices towards lowering emissions and reducing carbon footprints. Shifting away from volatile fossil fuels and embracing renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, emerges as a strategic imperative. This not only ensures a reliable and replenishable energy supply but also establishes a positive brand reputation, particularly among the environmentally-conscious demographic known as the "greener generation." According to a Nielsen study, these Millennials and Gen Z’s are 13% more likely to choose an environmentally-friendly product or service, even if it is more expensive than the industry standard.
Local Actions, Global Impact
One might ask whether the local telecoms industry shares this global responsibility to minimize impact. The answer is “Absolutely.” Embracing sustainability is not just an option; it's a strategic necessity. Fortunately, the three major Ghanaian mobile network operators (MNOs) MTN, Vodafone, and AT Ghana are recognizing this imperative and actively incorporating sustainability into their operations-
MTN's ambitious target is to achieve net zero emissions by 2040. As such, it is actively working towards a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. The plan is to replace traditional energy sources with solar, replace outdated facilities with new ones, reduce water use, and improve waste management in all its areas of operation.
Vodafone Group’s commitment is to make a 50% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and attain net zero emissions by 2040. To start, key telephone exchanges in Dansoman and Achimota will be converted to run on solar energy. Entering into excess energy redistribution partnerships with requisite government agencies will enable the telco to share its energy output, easing some of the burden on the national grid.
AT Ghana has gone paperless, ceased the printing and distribution of scratch cards and opted for digital recharges. An internal mandate to maximize energy efficiency by disabling all air-conditioning throughout their headquarters outside of working hours, and adopting eco-friendly lighting, minimizes their carbon footprint.
The Financial Facet
Yet, the journey toward sustainability cannot be a solo one for these telecom giants. It requires more than corporate goodwill; it demands financial backing. The financial sector plays a pivotal role in enabling and accelerating sustainable transformations. Green financing, encompassing loans and credit lines with favorable terms for eco-friendly projects, becomes a moral mandate for banks. There must be a push to align investments with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria and foster sustainable investment practices. For consumers to “buy green” and companies to “go green,” the banks need to “fund green.”
Global Group, Local Influence
The Standard Bank Group (SBG) emerges as a beacon of responsibility in this regard. Their track record in providing Environmental, Social, and Governance loans to telcos like South Africa's Vodacom showcases a commitment beyond profit motives. The success of such initiatives has spurred collaboration with other banks in facilitating multi-billion Sustainability Linked Loans (SLL) to companies like Kenyan telco Safaricom, further cementing the financial sector's role in steering industries toward sustainability.
Stanbic Bank, the Ghanaian subsidiary of SBG, follows suit in championing green financing. The bank played a vital role as debt arrangers for a syndicated loan supporting Genser Energy Ghana Limited in its development of a natural gas pipeline and processing facilities.
In partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Stanbic Bank is the first in Ghana to have developed a program to integrate climate finance into lending businesses in sub-Saharan Africa. Under this Climate Finance Advisory engagement, IFC will support Stanbic through trainings and advisory support to build the bank’s knowledge in identifying and assessing climate-aligned asset classes such as clean energy, clean transport, climate-smart agriculture, energy efficiency, and green buildings.
Redefining ‘Red, Gold, GREEN’
With robust financial backing, and Stanbic Bank as a close collaborator, Ghanaian telcos can usher in an era where sustainability is not just a concept but a guiding principle for a brighter, greener future. They can ensure their prosperity and contribute to a culture of environmental responsibility where every action, local and global, present and future, benefits the planet we all call home.