How to reduce digital pollution
Helping you make digital processes better, smarter and more efficient
Vodafone is a business that’s passionate about connecting people.
They’re one of the world's leading mobile communications providers, operating in 26 countries and in partnership with networks in over 55 more. Across the world, they have almost 444 million customers, with around 19.5 million in the UK. The company employs over 13,000 people across the UK.
A company this big is bound to make an impact on people and the world around them. Senior leaders in the business wanted to understand exactly what that impact means for the environment - both now and in the future. Their Customer Products and Servies team tasked us with exploring their current carbon footprint and their contribution towards digital pollution. They also asked us to help them come up with ways of empowering staff and end-users to be more environmentally conscious in their behaviours, resources, choices, lifestyles and attitudes.
It was clear from the start that this is an initiative Vodafone really believes in:
Climate change remains one of the most critical global challenges facing humanity.
Climate change is the key issue facing humanity today. The clock is ticking on the decade of action and we now have less than 10 years to avoid irreversible damage to the planet through increased global temperatures.
As a company, Vodafone has multiple measures in place already to improve sustainability and empower staff to make green choices. They also provide end-users with innovative technology that makes a genuine difference to their lives. They’re a business that really cares about connecting people to the world around them. They’re also keen to improve, progress and innovate - all whilst making a positive impact on the world. They also wanted to understand the impact of their products, services, processes and behaviours on digital pollution and needed to know what opportunities existed to innovate in an agile way. Ultimately, they were looking for real, long-term change.
These were ambitious targets and we knew immediately that the change would need to take place on a large scale, at a human and technology level, both inside and outside the company.
Initially, every individual within the company would need to understand:
- why carbon footprints matter
- what impact their behaviours have on the environment
- how they can make positive choices to reduce their digital waste
- and where to find the resources and tools they need to make a difference
We needed to review internal tools, processes and systems and calculate their environmental impact. End-users would need to be educated, guided and empowered to take actions that could create change.
Sustainable lifestyles and business are urgently required to avert irreversible environmental damage to the planet and ensure it is fit for life now and in the future. As reported by the World Economic Forum, whilst digital is a large source of pollution, this technology can cut global emissions by 15%.
So, where to begin on a project of this scale? First, we needed to have some big conversations. We worked alongside Vodafone SMEs to understand the technical landscape and find out where energy and resources are currently applied to run end-user applications.
The next step was data. We set up workshops and got access to as much relevant insight as we could. We looked into industry averages to provide a benchmark we could measure against. And we started to form a clear view of how and where changes could be made through face-to-face interviews and workshops.
Then, we shared our findings with relevant stakeholders, with some clear and decisive actions that we were confident would make a difference.
Through extensive research, focus groups, analysis and insight gathering, we learned a lot about Vodafone’s existing practices, impact and culture. We calculated their carbon footprint and looked at their digital pollution contribution.
We found that from within Vodafone’s company culture right through to end users, there was much more that could be done to reduce their carbon footprint and increase sustainability. We needed to make an impact. So, we collated our findings into four key action groups; “The four Cs” and detailed what could be done to effect change within each.
The four Cs:
Culture - We outlined a few key actions that can be implemented to help increase environmental awareness within the company culture. We want to embed climate consciousness into the DNA of every employee. And that starts with change at the top. More visibility of policies around climate change and an update of design standards.
Cloud - Automation, optimisation and sustainable practices are key to Cloud based success. More consideration about procurement and budgeting is vital. It’s critical to review existing tools, systems and processes and find opportunities to make them ‘greener’.
Code - There’s a need to lighten the load on code. Best practice and a more sustainable approach to requirements gathering will reduce the digital footprint of Vodafone’s code. We’re going to help optimise page performance, weight, speed and overall efficiency too. Emissions on mobile are higher than fixed lines, so this is an area of focus.
Customer - More customers should be encouraged to go online and when they do, Vodafone needs to ensure its technology is sustainable. When measuring online performance, it’s important that Vodafone consider sustainability within their KPIs. For example, while dwell time may be a useful commercial KPI, it’s not great for emissions! Changing the KPI structure can reduce digital pollution. There’s also an opportunity to calculate emissions based on customer device usage.
Now that we’ve outlined what needs to be done, it’s time to put these actions into practice. The first step is to begin helping senior leaders reduce their own footprint. Then we’ll:
Set up a sustainability steering board
We’ll start with recommendations for quick wins. Then, we’ll spend more time looking into the Four Cs and put together an implementation plan to turn the recommendations into actions. We’ll explore ongoing initiatives and get closer to roadmap planning.
Establish the carbon footprint and profile of CP&S
We’ll dig deeper into our estimates and put some real numbers against them.
Employee carbon footprint app
Reporting, ongoing engagement and regular communications will be critical to success!
Partner on community engagement and environmental causes
Join other relevant communities
We’re delighted to continue working with Vodafone on this hugely important and high impact initiative. For us, focusing on climate change is not a box ticking exercise. Businesses have a vital responsibility to take action on their own carbon footprint. And, they can use their voice and influence to encourage customers, staff and other businesses to do the same.
We can’t change everything. But we can all change something.
Modern digital trends are increasing the demand on energy to power our habits. Fresh thinking is required from organisations with the power and responsibility to make a difference.
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