Vodafone announced on 17 July that its European networks will be 100% powered by renewable energy sources by July 2021. The company’s aggressive new targets bring it to the front of a growing movement by European telecoms operators to embrace sustainability as part of their corporate identities.

The announcement impacts Vodafone networks in 11 countries, which will be powered by wind, solar, or hydro sources. Vodafone also plans to work with its business customers to reduce their own carbon emissions by 350 million tons over the next ten years.  That’s the equivalent of the UK’s total carbon emissions in 2019.

Vodafone is by no means alone in embracing aggressive sustainability practices in order to reduce carbon footprint. The move is part of a larger sustainability initiative known as the ‘circular economy’ in which resources are used for as long as possible, the most efficient technologies are deployed, and renewable resources and materials are utilized as much as possible.

Until recently, the circular economy has been embraced much more aggressively by other industries such retail and auto manufacturing. However, in recent years, telecoms operators have embraced the concept in a big way.

Vodafone aims to halve its environmental footprint by 2025

Case in point: Dutch network operator KPN, which provides mobile and fixed-line service to nearly 40 million customers in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, and Spain, announced an aggressive environmental initiative in 2017 that arguably paved the way for other operators including Vodafone. KPN also secured buy-in from a number of its hardware and software vendors and partnered with a host of companies that specialize in refurbishing and recycling of aging equipment.

At the time of its announcement, KPN committed to having nearly 100% of its parts and resources reused or recycled by 2025. Vodafone’s July announcement goes one step further; in addition to reusing, reselling, or recycling 100% of its ‘network waste,’ Vodafone will also halve its environmental footprint by 2025.

Vodafone sees its accelerated commitment to renewable energy sources as part of its Covid-19 response. According to Group CEO Nick Read, “As society rebuilds and recovers from the Covid-19 crisis, we have an opportunity to reshape our future sustainably to ensure that recovery does not come at a cost to the environment.” For Vodafone, that future is now coming sooner than expected.

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