Why should you care about sustainability in your organization, especially during a global pandemic? The answer is simple: Our planet has finite resources. Most notably, we are facing resource shortage, degraded ecosystems, and increasing levels of greenhouse gases. 

The “business as usual” simply cannot be supported anymore by our social and planetary boundaries. Many experts believe that COVID-19 is an opportunity for businesses to rethink and embed new ways of thinking in their operational practices and decision making.

Businesses that recognize this early on will benefit in the long term. Furthermore, according to recent research, 40% of millennials (the generation born between 1981 and 1996) said that they’ve chosen a job based on the company’s sustainability agenda. Considering that the millennials will make up three-quarters of the workforce in the coming years and be the current/future employees and clients of any business, companies have no choice but to establish a sustainability transformation plan.

What are the sustainability challenges of the telecom industry?

The telecom industry has been growing very fast in the past decades. Economic growth, the increasing adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities as well as 5G are the main drivers of the telecom market. The fast growth brings sustainability challenges, and the top three global challenges in the industry are as follows:

  • Increased energy consumption and CO² emissions as a result of increased data and supply chains. The IoT devices and networks need to produce a large amount of data that needs to be transmitted and sorted. The increase in data could use 20% of the world’s electricity by 2025. The telecommunication industry also heavily relies on various transportation methods to deliver the equipment, emitting CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. It is becoming increasingly important for telco operators and equipment providers to work with their suppliers to ensure sustainability standards are followed
  • E-Waste which is currently considered to be one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the EU with some 9 million tonnes generated in 2005, and it is expected to grow to more than 12 million tonnes by 2020.
  • Gender equality, especially women in leadership roles. Women account for less than 40% of the workforce in three-quarters of telecommunications companies according to a survey and only 12% of executives in leading telecom companies are female.

What has Huawei done so far to address sustainability challenges in ICT?

Huawei has averaged annual growth of 20% over the past 10 years However, this excellerated  growth comes with sustainability challenges, and the company is working together with other players in the industry to build green ICT.
So far, Huawei has worked on numerous sustainability initiatives, and I would like to highlight the following:

In 2018 the reuse rate of returned materials increased to 82.3%

Reusable products that meet certain criteria are first allocated to Huawei’s internal reuse channels such as R&D, spare parts, and new manufacturing. Materials that do not involve cybersecurity risks or sensitive information, are resold, disassembled, and recycled. In 2018 the reuse rate of returned products increased to 82.3%.

Focus on developing energy-efficient equipment

Continuous improvement in the energy efficiency of the equipment is a high priority for Huawei. The energy-saving technologies in Huawei span multiple areas, including architecture, processes, and materials. As a result of the innovations in this area, power saving can reach up to 60% in certain cases.

Commitment to renewable energy

Unbeknownst to many, Huawei is also operating in the renewable energy sector and is one of the largest solar PV inverter suppliers in the world. Since 2013, Huawei has contributed more than 180 billion kWh of solar power to the world.
Additionally, the first PV plant was built in Huawei’s southern factory in Dongguan, China. It can generate 18 million kWh of electricity each year, representing 10% of the factory’s electricity consumption. 

Looking ahead, 5G and IoT offer great potential for energy saving and perhaps becoming a carbon-neautral network. But it will not happen without a strong commitment and collaboration. Recognizing the challenges ahead and the risks of the future wil help the leaders of today make the right decision and build green ICT.

This year is the 20th anniversary of Huawei in Europe. Huawei’s vision is to bring digital to every person, home, and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world. ICT is playing an increasingly important role in addressing global environmental issues and is helping make progress in achieving the SDGs. ICT can help reduce power consumption and emissions in every industry, utilize more renewable energy, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.


Shushan Khachatryan

Project Director at Huawei Technologies, Netherlands


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