BT’s purpose is to “use the power of communications to make a better world.” Thing is, the company’s global communications business operations (voice, data, video, infrastructure, etc.) uses a great deal of power and thus generates massive amounts of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. BT has, over the past 20 years, worked hard to minimize those emissions. And, with Sunday’s launch of 100% Sport, a global initiative to inspire sports fans and teams to switch to renewable energy, BT shows it gets that sports can play a key role in the turnaround to a clean energy present and future. GreenSportsBlog met with Niall Dunne, BT’s Chief Sustainability Officer, in New York City for Climate Week, to discuss the company’s commitment to the climate change fight and, in particular, to 100% Sport.
That was the word (and exclamation point!) that kept popping into my head during my conversation with Niall Dune, BT’s Chief Sustainability Officer, about the company’s consistent, best-in-class leadership in the climate change fight, and how sports–and sports fans and teams–will be central to that fight.
BT: Leading on Climate? You Bet!
Surprised that the world’s oldest telecom company (founded in 1846) would be leading the green charge? Dig a little deeper and that surprise withers away: Leadership requires, among other things, innovative creativity and cold-eyed realism. BT has both: It has been innovating since it has existed, from the birth of the telegraph to the first transatlantic fiber cable. And realism allows it to coolly see the existential threat climate change poses, in the short- and long-term, to its businesses and beyond. As Niall Dunne put it, “Sea level rise from CO2 emissions is very bad news for us because water and electricity definitely do not mix.”
Niall Dunne, BT’s Chief Sustainability Officer. (Photo credit: Niall Dunne)
While the average consumer might not get why between an ICT (Information and Communications Technology) giant like BT feels the need to innovate on climate, it sees the climate change fight as core to its DNA. One reason is the company is such a big energy user–BT uses 1% of the electricity generated in the United Kingdom.
BT faces its emissions problems head on–and has been doing so for some time. “Over the last 20 years, BT has been on a consistent, 2-pronged mission to dramatically reduce its ‘carbon intensity’, or to abate carbon–which means using much less carbon to generate each kilowatt of electricity,” said Dunne, “Prong #1 is Energy Efficiency–through hardware advances like smart metering and other technological advances–and through softer approaches like employee engagement. Prong #2 is Renewable Energy. Since 2012, BT has derived 100% of its electricity for its UK operations from renewables–through on-site solar and 20-year Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s) of renewable energy. And we’re aiming to make this 100% clean energy worldwide by 2020.”
Abating Carbon, And Fast, is Net Good
Abating carbon is a huge challenge for BT and its ICT brethren. You see, the dirty little secret is that the fast-growing ICT companies need more and more electricity every year to power their ever-increasing numbers of data centers and servers. BT feels this more than its US counterparts as it offers a broader menu of services*.
No doubt about it, BT needs a LOT of electricity to service its customers and to grow. Can it abate carbon faster than the company–and its energy needs–grows?
“Yes we can. Doing less environmental harm is no longer good enough for BT,” offers Dunne, “and, with our Net Good initiative, we’re committing to abating carbon–improving our carbon intensity–much faster than our end-to-end carbon burden.”
What does that mean, exactly?
More Dunne: “As of 2013, BT’s total carbon emissions–including those of our suppliers related to our business–roughly equaled the carbon emissions our products and services helped to avoid/abate. By 2020, our goal, through Net Good, is to help our customers abate 3X the amount of our carbon emissions.”
BT will help its customers take an “all of the above” approach to get there: From smart cities to smart homes and buildings; from energy efficient cloud-based services to copper cable recycling; from an aggressive supplier innovation challenge to flexible, remote work technologies and much more.
Is a carbon abatement rate of 3X by 2020 enough to substantively slow the carbon train? Not likely, says Dunne–the science says we may need to be in the 10-20X-abatement range. That’s why much of BT’s Net Good thinking is open sourced so that everyone can start abating carbon–and increase the speed in which that abatement takes place.
And that’s why sports will play a prominent role in BT’s abatement acceleration plan.
BT + Sports + Renewables = 100% Sport
BT is no newcomer to sports in general, and to the greening of sports in particular: As official communications services provider and sustainability partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the company adheres to the sustainable development goals of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG). BT Sport, a suite of channels that broadcasts live sports to millions of fans every week, from soccer to rugby, basketball to baseball, tennis and sailing, was powered by 100% renewable energy from its launch in 2013. All of this is a result of BT’s realization that, in Dunne’s words, “Sport at its best is a virtuous connection to and evocation of community”.
And sports (or sport, if you prefer the British usage) is BIG. And, in the climate change fight, it’s Go BIG or…well, there is no OR.
This is why BT and Olympic and America’s Cup sailor Sir Ben Ainslie and teamed up on Sunday to launch 100% Sport – a global initiative to inspire sports fans, athletes, sports teams as well as sponsors to create a global movement to make using 100% renewable energy the new normal.
100% Sport aims to spur tangible action among fans and teams to tackle climate change. It brings the same passion sport fans feel for their favorite teams to climate action. Fans and teams are invited to participate by taking the simple step of switching to renewables.
Olympic and America’s Cup champion sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie, in ad supporting BT’s 100% Sport initiative encouraging sports teams and fans to power their stadia and homes with 100% renewable energy. (Photo credit: BT, Land Rover-Ben Ainslie Racing)
On the team side, BT will work on both sides of the pond to encourage major professional teams from all sports to power their stadia and arenas with 100% renewable energy. What a great example this will be–this is the type of “Go BIG” initiative GreenSportsBlog has been looking for!
As for fans, Niall Dunne provides a powerful perspective: “This campaign is about how sports fans can change the world. When Chelsea played London rivals Tottenham Hotspur (COYS!%#) on New Year’s Day this year, 1.7m BT Sport customers tuned in. Imagine if just 10% of those, a mere fraction of the UK’s football fans, switched to renewable energy. That’s the carbon saving equivalent of taking almost 50,000 cars off the road every year.”
So sports fans – tell your fellow fans as well as your home team: #go100percent.
* If you’re in the US, you might buy cable TV, internet access and landline^ phone service from a cable company (e.g. Comcast, Time-Warner) but cell service from an AT&T or Verizon. In the UK, BT offers all 4 services (a “Quad” package). And this doesn’t even mention its extensive, global B-to-B front-and-back end IT offerings (a la IBM). Nor its content offerings (a la HBO and ESPN).
^ This applies only if you are over 40. If you are under 40 you don’t have a landline.
% Come On You Spurs!!
# COYS reflects GreenSportsBlog’s passion for Tottenham, not Niall Dunne’s. He’s an Everton man.
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