Reports of an ‘ESG Backlash’ have been rife over recent months, with notably vociferous ‘anti-woke’ complaints from political parties on the extreme right.

For example, US Republican politicians have, in some cases, blacklisted financial groups such as BlackRock and Goldman Sachs. Away from the dizzy heights of global finance, farmers across Europe have also been out in their tractors protesting about climate-related legislation.

But, while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, they are not entitled to make up their own facts. 2023 was the warmest year on record, with the global average temperature 1.46°C above the pre-industrialized period. Combined with the transition to El Niño temporarily adding up to 0.2°C to the temperature, the consequences were flooding, wildfires, and droughts across the world.

Tech companies and ESG

Tech companies are not in climate crisis denial. Across the globe, they are looking to reduce their impact on the environment. The ESG rationale is both moral and economic: they use a lot of power and other resources that which are becoming scarcer and which have become more expensive. The demands of customers, investors, regulators, and talent also provide impetus.

One example of the substantial progress that has been achieved is the recent report by Telefónica into the progress it has made in improving energy efficiency thanks to the smart use of technology:

  • Energy consumption has been reduced by 8.6% since 2015 – at the same time network traffic has grown 8.6 times;
  • A total of 1,574 projects have generated recurring savings of more than €2.2 billion, with more than 13,800GWh of energy and four million tonnes of CO2 equivalent avoided since 2010.

These improvements were made by modernizing the network, replacing copper with fiber (85% more efficient), and deploying 5G (up to 90% more efficient than 4G). Migration to cloud and virtualization (up to 27% more efficient), and using power saving features and AI/ML platforms (up to 40% more efficient).

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Robert Pritchard, GlobalData Principal Analyst in Enterprise Network Services, notes that “The combination of service providers shifting to renewable electricity and optimized usage of the latest technologies have enabled Telefónica and other leading operators to make a real difference. Increasing future focus on reducing Scope 3 emissions (those not directly under operators’ control) are set to make even more sustainability gains.

“However, when it comes to climate crisis sceptics, they should note that these initiatives have not just been good for the environment, but also for the bottom line – and that’s always a clinching argument,” Pritchard concludes.