Sustainability |

Five things we learned in our first year of being carbon neutral

By Tom Penny July 8, 2021

It’s been a year to the day since we went carbon neutral and we’re proud to still hold Australia’s largest certification through Climate Active. We’re committed to staying carbon neutral, as well as reducing our emissions, and want other Aussie businesses to join us in helping to address climate change. So, what did we learn along the way, and how can other businesses get on board?

Running Australia’s leading telecommunications and technology company means it takes a lot to keep the lights on. And with the rising demand for data owing to ongoing COVID lockdowns and a move to online working, learning and entertainment, we can only expect to use more energy over time to keep Australians connected.

Climate change is one of the defining challenges of this decade, and that’s why we’re taking action now.

Ultimately, the most difficult part of going carbon neutral is taking the first step, but it gets much easier once you’ve started. Here’s what we’ve learned in the past year.

Focus on reducing your emissions first

Going carbon neutral should come with two objectives: to set ambitious commitments to reduce emissions as much as possible, then neutralise the remaining emissions with carbon credits.

The first step is to figure out where your biggest emissions are coming from. If you’re starting out, the GHG Protocol provides great guidance and tools to help build your emissions profile.

For us, we looked at everything from the fuel we use for our vehicles and generators (scope 1 emissions), the electricity we use to run our network, offices and stores (scope 2 emissions) and our travel, operational waste and even the emissions from our suppliers providing equipment to build our network (scope 3 emissions).

We’ve drawn on 15 years of emissions reporting to identify air conditioning, ventilation systems, power conversion and lighting as our biggest energy users across thousands of our fixed network sites and datacentres. So this is where we’re focussed on reducing our emissions.

For example, we’re using outside air to cool our facilities on cold days; switching fluorescent lights to LEDs and adding motion sensors to switch them off when they’re not required. We’re also running parts of our network with thousands of solar panels and using smart meters to help us track performance and manage the load.

We’re working closely with our suppliers to better understand our value chain emissions and incorporate new low-emissions products and services into our business to be as efficient as possible going forward.

When it comes to setting your emissions targets, The Science Based Targets Initiative is a great organisation that aligns to the latest research about what needs to be done to reduce the impact of climate change.

Invest in long-term relationships with carbon credit projects

When sourcing carbon credits, we’re not looking for the cheapest, quickest option. We’re building long-term relationships with project owners to create real impact for many years to come.

In Australia, we’re purchasing credits from a small number of First Nations savanna burning projects and reforestation projects. This year we’ve purchased 70,000 credits in Australia, up from 11,000 the year before.

Once again we’ve purchased credits from the Southern Aurukun Savanna Burning Project in Cape York which combines traditional knowledge – how to read country and knowing when to burn – with high-tech hardware including helicopters, fireballs and leaf blowers, to ensure traditional patchwork burning is performed in the right way and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced on Wik and Kugu country.

With cooler fires lit by the right people at the right time of year, we can reduce carbon emissions and better manage the threat of wildfires in the dry season.

Other First Nations savanna burning projects we’ve invested in this year include the Batavia Savanna Burning Project in Queensland and Wunambal Gaambera’s Right Way Fire Project in Western Australia.

Choose organisations and partnerswho share your same values

It’s also important to make sure that the carbon credits you invest in are actually making a difference to avoid or remove greenhouse gas emissions. Sourcing credits from projects that line up with your company values will help set you up for success.

Some of the guiding principles we follow when choosing projects include: Is the project location aligned to where we operate? What is the project’s connection to land? Do they use traditional land practices? Does this project create economic benefits for the local community, especially those in regional, rural or remote areas? Is the project aligned to addressing our largest source of emissions, energy? And, is there an opportunity for technology to improve the outcomes of the project?

Think big (like, really big)

Climate change is a global challenge, and we need to look at ways to support a global solution.

It doesn’t matter where emissions are released in the world, it all contributes to the same environmental impact, and climate change is disproportionately affecting developing nations.

Last year we purchased more than two million carbon credits globally to achieve our carbon neutral certification and we continue to invest in relationships with solar and wind farms in India as part of this.

Australia’s carbon offset market ripe for the taking

By some estimates1, Australia’s carbon offset market could drive $24 billion worth of investment and tens of thousands of jobs – particularly for regional and rural communities.

Australia has the potential to create large quantities of carbon credits to help address climate change and opening up to international markets could create a significant new export opportunity. 

Forecasts also indicate carbon markets may need to grow by 15 times by 2030 to keep up with the increasing demand in addressing climate change.

We’re also continuing to explore investments in projects that remove CO2 from the atmosphere, such as reforestation, buying more time for the world to decarbonise.

What’s next?

Getting everything together for a carbon neutral certification can be a herculean effort, particularly for smaller businesses. If you’re looking to take the first step on your carbon neutral journey, reach out to Climate Active today.

[1] https://carbonmarketinstitute.org/app/uploads/2021/06/Carbon-Farming-Industry-Roadmap.pdf

Network |

How much energy does Telstra’s network use?

By Tom Penny June 5, 2021

How are you reading this right now? On a smartphone? A laptop, maybe? What did you do before opening it? Post a tweet? Potentially scroll TikTok, even? You’d be surprised just how much energy it takes to bring you what you’re after on Australia’s largest telecommunications network. Here’s what’s involved, and what we’re doing to make it more climate-friendly.

Powering Australia’s largest telecommunications network

In the 2019-20 financial year, the energy we used to power our network resulted in 1.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. To put that into perspective, it’s what almost 240,000 cars put out on the road in a year.

With the sort of energy we’re using to keep the nation connected, you could power 200,000 homes for an entire year. Or you could charge your phone about 134 billion times.

And the need for powering it isn’t slowing down, either. The amount of data being sent back and forth on our network grew by 27 per cent in FY20. That number is likely to be higher in this financial year, following a time where most of us moved online to work, learn and see friends during various COVID lockdowns.

We’re being open about how we use energy, and our impact on the climate, so we can show you how we plan to offset its usage.

So how do we balance reducing our emissions with a growing demand for connectivity?

Making a difference

Last year we went carbon neutral in our operations through Climate Active, making us only the second telco in the nation to do so (right behind our subsidiary, Belong).

We did it by purchasing 2.3 million carbon offset credits from projects that avoid, reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions from being released in the atmosphere such as the Southern Aurukun Savanna Burning Project in Queensland and the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Project in Western Australia.

We also integrate renewable energy through our Power Purchase Agreements with Victoria’s Murra Warra wind farm and Queensland’s Emerald Solar Farm. Investing in renewables is another key part of emissions reduction plan.

As we continue to use up our global carbon budget, carbon credits will become an even more important tool to offset the emissions of organisations as they work to reduce their own impact. This increased demand for credits creates an incredible opportunity for Australia to grow the domestic carbon market to contribute to the global challenge of climate change.

Climate change is accelerating, and the effects are being felt more harshly each year. We pay the energy bill to keep the network running, but it’ll be our kids who pay in the end if we do nothing or if we do not act quickly or strongly enough.

St Vincent de Paul - Vinnies
Telstra News |

How we helped Vinnies go carbon neutral

By Jules Scarlett July 29, 2020

We know that achieving real action on climate change is going to take all of us working together. Telstra, along with our challenger brand Belong, were the first Australian telcos to be certified carbon neutral earlier this year. Now we want to share what we learnt along the way.

To continue to tip the scales on climate action, we have teamed up with Deloitte to help the St Vincent de Paul Society, Victoria, on their journey to become certified carbon neutral.

Vinnies Victoria already works to build a circular economy, diverting more than 3600 tonnes of apparel and over 10,000 mattresses away from landfill last year.

It is now taking accountability for the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the operations of its stores and other charitable works. By investing in 10,000 tonnes of high-quality carbon offsets, Vinnies Victoria has this week been certified as carbon neutral by Climate Active.

On top of this, Vinnies have also committed to reducing its ongoing carbon footprint going forward.

These are great steps from such a well-respected organisation, and we congratulate Vinnies on their achievement.

We recognise that for organisations big and small going carbon neutral requires a detailed understanding of your operations, a strong knowledge of how to source ethical and high-quality offsets, and the proper governance and due diligence to ensure your commitment is leading to action. We were proud to offer Vinnies some guidance on what we learnt about this through our own certification process.

We’re also passionate about ensuring the long-term effectiveness of Australia’s carbon offset market. This is a huge opportunity for our country. By some estimates, the carbon offset market could drive $24 billion worth of investment and tens of thousands of jobs – particularly for regional and rural communities.[1]

We look forward to working with more organisations who are taking up the challenge of going carbon neutral.

Our commitment to climate has to go beyond just words to ensure that we’re engaged in real change. That’s why I’m pleased to say we are making progress on our commitments to use power sources from 100% renewable sources by 2025 and reduce our total emissions by 50% by 2030.

[1] http://carbonmarketinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/2020-Strategy-Paper_final.pdf

Telstra News |

How we went carbon neutral

By Lyndall Stoyles July 9, 2020

Today we are proud to announce that we have been certified carbon neutral in our operations, receiving Climate Active’s largest certification in Australia. We’ve also become the second telecommunications business in Australia to do so behind our Belong brand, who gained certification in December last year.

This comes after we announced we were close to being certified last month, well ahead of our initial plan.

We’re continuing to work to reduce our overall emissions by 50% in 10 years and while we do that, we’re purchasing carbon neutral credits to counteract our environmental impact.

How did we do it?

As one of the largest consumers of power in the country, our certification has been achieved by purchasing 2.3 million carbon offset credits from projects that avoid, reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere. We have also saved >13,000 MWh of energy through energy efficiency initiatives and a further >18,000MWh through decommissioning old equipment.

We have chosen carbon offset credits consistent with the Australian Government’s Climate Active program guidelines and further applied our own criteria to assess the social and environmental integrity of projects we chose to invest in. The credits purchased to meet our 2020 carbon neutral commitment have been from two project owners in Australia and three in India.

Our experience has been that it is extremely difficult to purchase carbon offsets from projects located in Australia. This is something that needs to be addressed because what it says is that there are not enough projects contributing to a reduction in greenhouse emissions.

Southern Aurukun Savanna Burning Project, QLD

APN Cape York
Image: APN Cape York

When we looked through the list of projects with Climate Active, the way the Savanna Burning Project blends traditional knowledge with technology to deliver a favourable environmental outcome made this project an obvious choice for us.

The Southern Aurukun Savanna Burning Project combines traditional knowledge – how to read country and knowing when to burn – with high-tech hardware including helicopters, fireballs and leaf blowers, to ensure traditional patchwork burning is restored in the right way and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced on Wik and Kugu country.

Greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted from savanna fires makeup 3% of Australia’s total emissions. Savanna burning projects undertaken by Traditional Owners and Aboriginal rangers reduce GHG emissions by undertaking cool, lower intensity fires in the early dry season when the vegetation still contains some moisture from the wet season. This reduces the GHG emitted from high intensity, unmanaged fire in the late dry season when the country is dry.

Community responsibility cannot work in isolation and we’re committed to also improving network availability in Australia’s Indigenous communities. We’ve delivered network upgrades on the Cape York Peninsula over the past three years, improved mobile coverage throughout the Torres Strait, and enhanced fibre connectivity to the communities of Hopevale and Aurukun, so that these communities can also access the health, education and society benefits that connectivity provides.

Telstra is also currently undertaking a capacity upgrade of the network backbone infrastructure in Cape York. Once complete, this will provide a significant amount of network capacity to support future projects across the Cape.

Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Project, WA

Following on from devastating bushfires in Australia in recent years, Telstra wanted to invest in a program that would help regenerate Australia’s ecosystem and improve biodiversity in the wake of loss.

The Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor is a native reforestation project located in Southwest Australia – a global biodiversity hotspot. The project is established on degraded, semi-arid agricultural land that no longer supports viable farming practices. It removes carbon from the atmosphere and recreates a healthy and functioning landscape, restored after decades of habitat loss and soil degradation.

Planting native tree and shrub species indigenous to the region provides essential habitat and connectivity for birds and animals to transition through the landscape. The project also delivers measurable environmental, social, economic and heritage benefits to the community, including local Indigenous inclusion and employment and support of over 80 local businesses. The reforestation is protected for 100 years by Carbon Right and Carbon Covenants registered on land titles.

Various Solar and Wind Power Projects, India

Sun shining on solar panels

In India, where Telstra has significant operations, we have also purchased offsets from two solar power projects with a number of separate solar farms ranging in size, and three wind farms.

One of the solar power projects, ReNew Solar Power, has 26 separate solar farms with a total installed capacity of 927MW and exports to the Indian electricity grid in five states of India.

These investments help to decarbonise the India electricity grid and therefore align closely with Telstra’s renewable energy power purchase agreements in Australia through the Murra Warra wind farm and Emerald solar farm.

Sunset from atop Bluff Knoll, a mountain in the Stirling Ranges National Park, located in the south west of Western Australia, Australia.
Sustainability | Telstra News |

We’re close to being carbon neutral

By Andrew Penn June 16, 2020

Telstra is expected to be certified as carbon neutral within weeks – well ahead of our initial plan.

In a recent speech on responsible business I said climate change would be the defining challenge of the 2020s. If anything, the lockdown during COVID has strengthened that view, giving many of us the chance to reflect on the fragility and interconnectedness of the planet in a period that has been quieter, cleaner, less frenetic.

Against that background, it was a real pleasure today to be invited to be part of the UN Global Compact Leaders’ Summit, a rolling global conversation involving leaders from more than 10,000 businesses and 3,000 non-business organisations in 160 countries. The big question on the table was how can we rebuild a more inclusive society for a low-carbon, climate-resilient world? The more specific question for business was what is our role? Because we do have a very big role. It is impossible today to view business as separate from society and we are rightly held more accountable than ever before for our actions. What we do and how we act matters.

Telstra is one of the largest consumers of power in the country. Powering networks on a continent the size of Australia requires something in the order of 5.9 petajoules of energy each year and last year that resulted in nearly 1.3m tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

The challenge we face is trying to significantly reduce those emissions at the same that demand for connectivity and new digital technologies is rising rapidly. That demand saw the volume of data on our network grow by 26% last year alone. It is expected to triple by 2025.

A positive impact

At the same time, this huge increase in data consumption is having its own positive impact on the environment. Increased connectivity, improved efficiency and new behaviours (a simple example being the ability to work or learn from home rather than commuting) meant connected technologies are helping to avoid emissions. Recent GSMA research estimated that in 2018, the enabling impact of mobile communication technologies globally was estimated to be around 2,135 million tonnes of CO2 – similar to the total greenhouse gas emissions emitted by Russia in 2017.

The research said the level of avoided emissions enabled by connected technologies was estimated to be 10 times greater than the global carbon footprint of mobile networks themselves. The majority of these avoided emissions result from a decrease in fuel, electricity and gas. In other words, digitisation, which is expected to disrupt all parts of the economy over the next decade, has the potential to be a key driver of low carbon development.

At Telstra, while we do everything we can to ensure our networks are energy efficient we still have a huge responsibility to do what we can to lessen the impact we have on the environment. In March this year we announced how we would meet our responsibility to reduce our emissions. It had three core elements. To be carbon neutral in our operations from this year. To be renewable leaders by enabling renewable energy generation equivalent to 100% of our consumption by 2025. To reduce our absolute emissions by 50% by 2030.

Telstra carbon neutral

Solar energy farm for renewable sun energy – Townsville, Queensland

When we committed to becoming carbon neutral in our operations this year we expected it would take us much of the year to put in place what we needed for certification. At the same time, we were also conscious that the longer it took, the bigger our impact on the environment. That is why we are very proud to announce that we expect to be certified as carbon neutral by Climate Active in the next few weeks – well ahead of our initial plan.

We are in the final stages of signing agreements with two carbon offset organisations – something we expect to happen in the next few days. In Australia, we will be supporting a project that uses the knowledge of traditional owners and Aboriginal rangers to reduce the Greenhouse gases emitted from savannah fires, which make up 3% of Australia’s total emissions. In India (where Telstra has significant operations) we will also be purchasing offsets from a solar power project with a number of separate solar farms ranging in size. This activity also ties in closely with our Power Purchasing Agreements for wind and solar farms here in Australia and follows our Belong business gaining carbon neutral certification in December last year.

Everybody’s challenge

As an organisation we are proud of the rapid progress we are making on our climate strategy. But changing the current trajectory on climate change – and meeting the defining challenge of the 2020s – will require ongoing, bold and creative action along with decisive leadership of the type on show at the UN Global Compact Leaders’ Summit. Climate change is a shared challenge that impacts our economy, our environment, our communities and each of us individually. If ever there was a moment for bolder and more significant action on climate change it is now.