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Greenest Telecom Providers

A number of sustainability rankings in the US and Europe let us take a look at how telecom providers perform compared to each other and to broader tech sectors. Sprint-Nextel is best in the United States. Sprint's take-back program was ranked tops in the US in 2012 and was the only carrier in the top quartile of Greenpeace's 2013 Cool IT Leaderboard. France Telecom, KPN and Vodafone have received consistently good marks with global rankings.

This matrix uses sustainability rankings from multiple sources, illustrating how different methodologies and different peer groups can yield different results. BT, Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, and Verizon also perform well in multiple rankings. (Verizon performs better with US rankings than in global ones.)

Survey: Newsweek Green Rankings 2012 Tomorrows Value Rating 2011 ABI Research 2009 Global 100 2010 Other Positives
Description: US Public 500 (U)
& Global 500 (G)
Largest ICT (World) Telecom Top 10 "Most Sustainable Corporations in the World"
Peer Group:
Total in Group:
9 (U)
28 (G)
All / Telecom
20 / 7
Europe (E) /
N. America (N)
10 (E) / 10 (N)
All / Telecom
100 / 4
AT&T 2 (U)
13 (G)
19 / 6 1* (N)   [2] [6]
Belgacom 9 (E)
Bell Canada 3 (G) 6 (N)  
Bell Mobility 6 (N)  
BT 1 (G) 35 / 2 [4]
Century Link (Quest)   4 (U)
23 (G)
China Mobile   25 (G)
China Telecom   24 (G)
Deutsche Telekom 17 (G) 13 / 5 1 (E) [2] [6]
France Telecom   8 (G) 4 / 2 2** (E)
Frontier 8 (U)
KDDI 14 (G)
KPN (Royal) 2 (G) 7 (E) [1] [2] [5]
Leap Wireless 9 (N)  
Level 3/td> 5 (U)  
MetroPCS 8 (N)  
Mobilkom 6 (E)
MTN 17 (G)
NII   9 (U) [5]
NTT DoCoMo   10 (G)
NTT   11 (G) 12 / 4
Rogers 20 (G) 7 (N)*  
SingTel   21 (G)
Softbank   22 (G)
Sprint-Nextel (USA) 1 (U) 2 (N) [5] [6] [7] [8]
Swisscom 5 (N) 43 / 3
T-Mobile 4 (N)  
TDS   7 (U)  
Telecom Italia 6 (G) 4 (E) [2]
Telefonica 4 (G)
Telefonica Brasil 5 (G)
Telenor 19 (G) [3]
TeliaSonera 16 (G) 10 (E) [3]
Telstra 18 (G) [2]
Telus 12 (G) 5 (N) 88 / 4
US Cellular 6 (U) 10 (N)  
Verizon   3 (U)
15 (G)
20 / 7 3* (N)  
Vodafone 9 (G) 1 / 1 3 (E) 8 / 1 [2] [6]
Windstream 6 (U)  

* Ranking is for wireless operation
** Ranking is for Orange Group

[1] Royal KNP is the only telecom to make the top 20 in Vestas' Corporate Renewable Energy Index [CREX] 2011, ranking #13 for RE as a percentage of energy consumption and #5 in total RE procurement.

[2] These companies appear on at least one top 10 list from world or regional 2011 Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes. These indexes include all sectors, not just telecom.

[3] These companies appear on at least one top 10 list from country or country group 2011 Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes. Top 10 performer not on the above table is SK Telecom (Korea Index). These indexes include all sectors, not just telecom.

[4] BT is the only telecom in the top quartile of IPE's ranking of tech companies on their environmental and human rights performance in China.

[5] Sprint, in October 2011, upped its commitment through the WWF Climate Savers program to reduce its GHG emissions by 20%. KNP is also pursuing an aggressive reduction through the same program.

[6] IDC Worldwide Mobile Operator 2010 Vendor Profiles: A Green Analysis — An Evaluation of 10 Key Mobile Operators' Mobile Phone Sustainability Efforts only discloses the top 5, unranked, out of 10 evaluated, to those who do not purchase the full report. Each of these are in the top 5.

[7] Compass Intelligence's 2012 report on Mobile Device Reuse and Recycling "...includes an assessment of the used device ecosystem and a ranking of the carrier trade-in/buyback programs. For the second consecutive year, Sprint’s Buyback Program is the top ranked out of the major U.S. carriers. The ranking compares the trade-in programs of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and US Cellular."

[8] Greenpeace's April 2013 Cool IT Leaderboard includes five telecoms from around the world in its 21 participants. Sprint was the only telecom that scored in the top quartile.

British firm Two Tomorrows' 2011 sustainability ratings covers the 20 "world’s largest information and communications technology (ICT) companies." The companies score between 60% and 23% on a 100% scale. The top third - scoring 46% or better - are mostly product companies, but two service providers make the cut. Vodafone is #1 at 60% and France Telecom is #4 at 49%. We highlighted the top third in green.

Newsweek's Green Rankings 2012 ranks the US top public 500 and global top 500 companies. We highlighted the top third in each set's telecommunications sector in green.

ABI Research's European Green Operators Matrix ranks 10 telecoms on green innovation and implementation. Deutsche Telekom and Orange Group (France Telecom), #1 and #2, respectively, cluster distinctly ahead of the pack in ABI's matrix. ABI notes:

"The results of the study illustrate that innovation is the most important element for a carrier to be termed "green." Most European carriers do well implementing environmental and sustainable policies across their organizations. Most of them have internal processes, ISO 14001 EMS, and management structures in place to implement CSR policies. However what distinguishes carriers is their leadership ability in innovating and partnering with others in the industry to promote green energy-efficient technologies. Unlike their US counterparts, many of the top carriers in Europe have a good sense of how much energy is being consumed within their networks, and in fact disclose CO2 emissions based on standard protocols such as GHG or GRI."

We highlighted the top third in green.

In ABI Research's North American Green Carriers Matrix ranks 10 telecoms on green innovation and implementation. AT&T Wireless and Sprint-Nextel, #1 and #2, respectively, only fall a little below their European counterparts, while the other 8 carriers rank well below. We highlighted the top third in green.

The 2010 Global 100 list contained only 4 telecoms, with Vodafone delivering the best performance. We highlighted the top provider in green.

Product manufacturers, not telecom providers, dominate ICT sustainability lists like those of Two Tomorrows and Newsweek. An interesting question is whether this is a function of the ratings methodologies or of greater stakeholder exceptions for tech product companies. I suspect the latter. Note that tech product companies dominated the top of Newsweek's listings even when compared to all Fortune 500 companies, not just the tech sector. I see no reason why telecos could not perform as well in these product ratings if they had the same demand from customers and other stakeholders as do tech product companies.

Click on the 'comm' tag at the top of this post for more on green communications technologies and practices.