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Technology's Role in Climate and Resource Resilience

Issue Summary

Environmental impacts related to resource scarcity and volatile weather can disrupt a company’s business operations. Technology companies are in a unique position to help customers – from individuals to large enterprises and government organizations – mitigate their own environmental impact and improve their resiliency.

Our Position

Our Climate Change Policy states that AT&T recognizes climate change is happening and that greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to it. We believe that our technology has the ability to help lower emissions for our company and our customers. Technology will continue to play a critical role in transitioning to a more resource efficient world, increasing business resiliency and improving daily lives.

Data Highlights

Targets to our 2020/2025 Goals

Planned

  • 2020 Target: Develop and deploy robust methodology to understand AT&T’s network impacts to society.
    • PROGRESS: In 2015, AT&T began the process of engaging with industry groups and customers to develop a credible methodology to measure network impacts to society
  • 2020 Target: Demonstrate the environmental and social enablement power of consumer devices and solutions to live smarter, healthier and more independent lives.
    • Collaborate both internally and externally to help quantify the environmental and social sustainability enablement impacts of AT&T consumer devices and solutions (e.g., Internet of Things, Digital Life, Eco-Ratings, connected car, education and accessibility).
      • PROGRESS: As AT&T builds an overarching measurement methodology to reach our 2025 goal of enabling carbon reductions 10 times the footprint of our operations, we consider the relevant consumer-facing products and services that will help us reach our goal. Working with our internal business units, we continue to identify the environmental and social benefits associated with specific devices and solutions, as well as their power to enable smarter, healthier and more independent lives.
  • 2025 Target: Enhance network efficiency to enable the achievement of the “net positive” ratio.
  • 2025 Target: Deliver customer solutions to achieve “net positive” ratio.
    • PROGRESS: AT&T joined BSR’s Net Positive Project in 2016, a cross-sector coalition that aims to develop practices and tools companies can use to quantify, assess, communicate, and enhance their positive impacts on society and the environment.


Our Action

We work with industries, governments, nonprofits and academia to promote technology that tackles climate and resource challenges.

At the same time, we must continually strive to reduce our own energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions, and increase our resiliency in all of our operations.

Technology’s role in shifting to a low-carbon economy

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions — comprising hardware, software, and broadband and wireless technologies — can enable people and businesses to make more energy-efficient choices and reduce environmental impact by:

  • Moving work to people rather than people to work
  • Connecting rather than traveling
  • Managing business remotely and in real time
  • Improving transportation and distribution systems
  • Connecting people to the “knowledge economy” through e-learning, e-health, business, and agricultural initiatives

GeSI’s SMARTer2030 report finds that the increased use of ICT can enable a 20% reduction of global CO2 emissions by 2030, holding emissions at 2015 levels, and an avoidance of 12.08 Gigatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) of GHG emissions. This translates into a benefit 9.7 times higher than ICT’s own footprint in the same period. ICT also has the potential to generate over $11 trillion in economic benefits by 2030. ICT will connect 2.5 billion extra people to the “knowledge economy” by 2030, giving 1.6 billion more people access to healthcare and half a billion more people access to e-learning tools.

AT&T Solutions

AT&T offers several ICT solutions that have the ability to create efficiencies and environmental savings. We continue to work with credible third parties to quantify those benefits.

We worked with... To analyze the environmental impact of... And identified potential environmental savings by 2020... And potential financial impacts by 2020 of...
Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI)1 The ICT industry 9.1 gigatons of CO2-e $1.9 trillion
CDP & Verdantix2 Cloud computing 85.7 million tons of CO2-e annually $12.3 billion in energy savings alone
CDP & Verdantix3 Telepresence (in place of some travel) 5.5 million metric tons of CO2-e $19 billion
Carbon War Room Machine-to-machine (M2M) technology 9.1 gigatons of CO2-e4 Almost $1 trillion5

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Technologies

AT&T worked with Carbon War Room to produce a report that proposes strategies for the M2M technologies industry to transform key sectors and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 9 billion tons.2

Read the Carbon War Room report >

Cloud Computing

At its simplest, cloud computing is remotely accessible computing powerhouse where customers can keep data or applications. A CDP and Verdantix study found that by 2020, large U.S. companies that use cloud computing can achieve annual energy savings of $12.3 billion and annual carbon reductions equivalent to 200 million barrels of oil.3 That’s enough to power 5.7 million cars for one year.6

Read the report >

Smart Cities

By 2030, almost 60% of the world’s population will live in cities. These cities currently account for 60-80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions on Earth.7 AT&T is committing our resources and expertise in the Internet of Things (IoT) to create smart cities to help support the growing needs of cities, as well as improve quality of life and create new economic opportunities. We are connecting things like utility meters, street lights and water pipes to transform how cities serve their citizens, use energy and preserve natural resources.

In September 2015, AT&T formed a dedicated Smart Cities Organization and at International CES 2016, we announced the launch of a new Smart Cities framework to help cities better serve their citizens and the environment. We will bring the Smart Cities framework to several initial spotlight communities: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Chapel Hill (NC), Montgomery County (MD) and Miami-Dade County (FL), and will partner with local universities, such as the Georgia Institute of Technology, to study the impact of our solutions.

We’re also working to provide city officials with solutions for monitoring city resources and performance. In particular, we’re developing a new digital dashboard, The Smart City Network Operation Center (SC-NOC), which provides a high-level view of how assets are performing in near-real time. City officials can keep tabs on power outages, water leaks, traffic issues and more – all from one location.

Learn more about how AT&T is using IoT solutions in smart cities.

Telecommuting

Telecommuting is one of the most promising opportunities for businesses to cut carbon emissions, and it offers a variety of benefits for both companies and employees. It can improve:

  • Job recruitment, by improving a company's attractiveness to prospective employees
  • Access to non-traditional workers, by eliminating distance and commuting as barriers to employment
  • Job satisfaction
  • Work/life balance
  • Real estate efficiency

Related to telecommuting is teleworking, or the ability to work virtually from anywhere. Teleworking is a vital component in preparing our nation for responding to unexpected events that prevent workers from reaching their traditional office environment such as natural disasters, outbreaks of disease or terrorist incidents.

We offer a variety of innovative solutions to facilitate flexible working, including remote access, and conferencing and collaboration services. These technologies can help reduce travel and increase productivity by enabling employees to communicate and collaborate from virtually anywhere.

Learn more about how AT&T uses flexible working arrangements in its own operations and how AT&T’s Unified Communications (UC) solutions can be used to establish telecommuting and teleworking programs. 

Visit the AT&T UC website >

Telepresence

AT&T Telepresence Solution® is a high-definition videoconferencing service that provides a virtual, face-to-face meeting experience without the expense and productivity drains of travel. Telepresence allows users to meet with people across the globe as if everyone were in the same room.

Since the introduction of AT&T’s Telepresence Solution®, AT&T has hosted customer forums, accelerated marketing campaigns, streamlined meeting processes and reduced travel through the use of video collaboration. This has resulted in meaningful financial and environmental impacts for AT&T:


Travel expense avoided CO2 equivalent emissions avoided8
2010 $4.1M 2,500 metric tons
2011 $13.9M 8,300 metric tons
2012 $19.8M 11,600 metric tons
2013 $16.7M 13,000 metric tons
2014 $15.1M 12,800 metric tons
2015 $15.2M 12,900 metric tons
Total $85.8M 61,100 metric tons

This experience continues to validate research into the benefits of telepresence. An AT&T-sponsored study by CDP and Verdantix found that by 2020, U.S. businesses with revenues of more than $1 billion can collectively achieve financial benefits of almost $15 billion by substituting telepresence for some business travel, and can cut nearly 4.6 million metric tons of CO2.5

Visit the AT&T Telepresence website >

Read the report>

Digital Life

AT&T’s Digital Life is an all-IP wireless home automation and security system that allows customers to manage their home by performing tasks such as remotely monitoring and controlling lighting and thermostat controls, smoke detectors and water sensors from multiple devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops. While increasing comfort and security in the home, the system also provides potential environmental benefits and allows users to better manage resource use.

Visit the AT&T Digital Life website >

Fleet Management

Texas A&M University’s 2015 annual urban mobility scorecard showed that congestion in metropolitan areas caused urban Americans to purchase an extra 3.1 billion gallons of fuel at a cost of $160 billion in 2014. In total, traffic congestion costs the U.S. economy an estimated $124 billion per year, and is projected to rise to $186 billion by 2030. Individuals spent an average of 42 extra hours traveling in 2014, compared to 18 hours in 1982.9

Smarter transportation tackles inefficiencies by reducing fuel consumption through automated route planning. These technologies can also increase vehicle efficiency through the reduction of idle time, better management of miles driven, adherence to speed rules, monitoring of vehicle acceleration and other strategies. The resulting efficiency gains can deliver fleet-wide performance improvements that can lead to reduced energy waste and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

AT&T is one of the largest U.S. wireless providers of fleet management solutions for commercial truck and van fleets. Along with our business alliance members, we offer many vehicle-based solutions that combine the latest advances in GPS, wireless and web technologies to make mobile workforce and fleet management a more affordable reality.

AT&T’s technician vehicles are equipped with similar solutions. For our company, these products provide:

  • Better management of miles driven per day by technicians
  • Improved processes in place for vehicle returns to work centers
  • Improved inventory management
  • Reduced travel time and costs with real-time dispatching

Learn more about transportation management offerings.

Data Center Efficiency

The ICT sector is responsible for approximately two percent of global CO2 emissions, which is nearly the same as the airline industry, according to a study by The Green Grid Association. AT&T helps businesses build and operate their IT infrastructure more efficiently — helping them to lower the cost of doing IT business. Current trends toward cloud computing, server and storage virtualization, and low-energy cooling as a means to replace less-efficient data centers and application services have great potential to increase IT and data center efficiency.

Learn more about Smarter Data Centers.

Smart Utilities

Smart utilities provide the potential for real-time access to utility data by customers and service providers. These grids allow for two-way communication between the utility provider and end points in the distribution system, including meters at the home or business

Smart utilities can:

  • Enable utilities to read meters remotely without sending technicians
  • Provide utilities with the ability to remotely connect, disconnect and reconnect service for customers (e.g., moving homes or non-payment/reinstatement), thereby reducing emissions and saving time and money related to dispatching a truck
  • Enable utilities to offer faster and easier outage identification and response, or correct problems before they lead to outages
  • Give customers real-time usage information to adjust their energy or water use, potentially saving customers money, allowing the grid to reduce usage during peak times and possibly reducing the number of new power plants that must be built
  • Provide utilities with the ability to effectively integrate alternative and sustainable energy resources into their networks, potentially saving money and reducing carbon emissions and water use

AT&T connects people and data by providing broadband, wireless technology and security features. This technology will be critical to the modernization the nation’s utilities. As of the end of 2015, AT&T managed communications for 16.5 million smart meters.

For more information, visit www.att.com/smartgrid.  

Promoting ICT'S Role

2015 Collaboration Highlights with Industry Peers & Customers

  • Working with Cisco, Ericsson, GE, IBM, Intel, and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc, we are leading innovation using the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable Smart Cities. Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Chapel Hill (NC) and Montgomery County (MD) are the first cities to be named to a partnership with AT&T, and will serve as pilots for solutions that focus on improving city infrastructure, transportation and citizen engagement in 2016.
  • AT&T, IBM, and Mueller Water Products Co. participated in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Global Smart Cities Challenge in 2015. The companies created a joint solution using IoT (Internet of Things) technology that can be installed quickly to help cities manage water and prevent leaks. The solution was implemented in Las Vegas, NV in partnership with the Las Vegas Valley Water District. As of September 2015, AT&T is a lead member of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC). AT&T will direct a team that helps more cities adopt Smart City solutions as part of the 2016 GCTC.
  • Maersk uses AT&T’s Industrial IoT technology to connect, track and monitor 280,000 refrigerated containers, one of the largest global deployments of Industrial IoT technology. Maersk has near-real time visibility into the conditions of each refrigerated container at almost any part of its journey during the supply chain, monitoring quality and improving worker efficiency. Their shipping supervisors can monitor mechanical performance to help ensure the equipment is in proper working condition, leading to improved delivery processes.
  • HydroPoint uses an Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine solution to connect irrigation control points and sensors to its system for analyzing climate and determining water needs. The company worked with AT&T to provision the wireless network, customized network access and a self-service management platform to support the data transport requirements of their smart irrigation controllers. As a result, HydroPoint’s solution saved customers more than 15 billion gallons of water and $137 million in expenses in 2014 alone. One HydroPoint customer, The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection resort, has reduced its water usage by 50 percent on their hotel resort property.

We work with several groups to publicly promote the use of technology to address climate and resource challenges, including industry groups like GeSI and the Alliance for Telecommunication Industry Solutions, as well as other organizations, including BlueGreen Alliance, BRT, CDP, Carbon War Room and GreenBiz. 

Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI)

We actively participate in GeSI, an organization that brings together leading ICT companies — including telecommunications service providers and manufacturers as well as industry associations — and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) committed to achieving sustainability objectives through innovative technology.

Through the GeSI organization, AT&T participates in projects and activities centered in GeSI’s three primary focus areas: 

  • Climate change (e.g., energy efficiency, SMARTer 2020, ICT key performance indicators)
  • Supply chain (e.g., conflict minerals)
  • Human rights

Alliance for Telecommunication Industry Solutions (ATIS)

AT&T is a member of ATIS, the North American telecommunications standards development organization. AT&T initiated the creation of the Telecommunications Energy Efficiency (TEE) committee, which developed a methodology for measuring and reporting the energy efficiency of telecommunications equipment and radio base stations. The TEE has developed and published individual standards for servers, transport, routers and Ethernet switch products, and has issued a technical report for measuring facility energy efficiency. AT&T has incorporated many of these energy efficiency reporting requirements into our network equipment standards. We are working with our major network suppliers to establish goals to improve the efficiencies of next-generation network equipment using the Telecommunications Energy Efficiency Ratio (TEER) metric. We are already seeing results collaborating with strategic network suppliers with TEER baselines and goals in our agreements.

BlueGreen Alliance

AT&T is a member of BlueGreen Alliance (BGA), an organization that brings together the nation’s largest unions and environmental organizations. BGA actively promotes steps for building a cleaner, fairer and more competitive American economy.

BGA advocates the growth in the number and quality of jobs in the clean economy by “expanding a broad range of industries, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, the substitution of safer, cleaner chemicals, modern transportation systems and advanced vehicle technology, domestic manufacturing, high-speed Internet and a smart, efficient electrical grid, green schools and other public buildings, improving our nation’s water infrastructure, recycling, and sustainable agriculture.”10

Business Round Table (BRT)

AT&T is a member of BRT’s Energy and Environment committee. The committee oversees issues including energy efficiency, energy generation, transmission and distribution, renewable energy, climate change and sustainability. The committee believes that “access to reliable, affordable energy undergirds U.S. national and economic security, and a clean, healthy environment is essential for economic prosperity now and for future generations.” Business Roundtable supports policies that “capitalize on America’s strengths in technology and energy diversity to maximize U.S. energy options and preserve environmental quality,” and states that “the business community has a special obligation to step forward and help build an environmentally and economically sustainable future.”11

CDP

CDP is an international, not-for-profit organization providing the only global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share vital environmental information. AT&T reports annually to CDP and has collaborated with the group to examine the environmental and economic benefits of technology, including telepresence and cloud computing.

Carbon War Room

The Carbon War Room is an international think tank that works to accelerate the adoption of business solutions that reduce carbon emissions on a gigaton scale and advance the low-carbon economy. AT&T has worked with the CWR to explore the environmental and economic benefits of M2M communications technology.

GreenBiz

AT&T has worked with GreenBiz to research and promote the ways in which technology investments are influenced by the sustainability benefits of technology. For instance, AT&T sponsored GreenBiz research that investigated how technology purchase decision-makers consider sustainability benefits when making investment decisions. It found that while collaboration technologies, cloud computing, M2M communication and telematics have environmental and social benefits, the language of business – cost savings and efficiency – are the keys to a purchase decision. Read the full report.

Climate Resilience

We are continually taking steps to help ensure our company’s resiliency in the face of volatile weather and resource scarcity. We disclose this information in our annual response to the CDP.

Company Energy Use

Changes in temperature extremes have an impact on our energy use. We invest in energy efficiency projects that help mitigate exposure to spikes in energy costs. We’ve set a goal to reduce the electricity consumption of our company relative to data growth on our network by 60 percent by 2020 (baseline of 2013).

We evaluate innovative technologies such as fuel cells for reliable, onsite power generation and multiple close-coupled cooling solutions that increase cooling efficiency and reduce energy usage by approximately 30 percent or more. These technologies deployed in existing facilities will allow for use well into the future, even as compute densities (energy use per rack of equipment) increase beyond their original design capabilities. Learn more about our energy management efforts. 

Greehouse Gas Emissions

We measure  and manage our greenhouse gas emissions, and have set a goal to reduce our Scope 1 emissions 20 percent by 2020, (2008 Scope 1 baseline of 1,172,476 mtons CO2 –e). Read more about our greenhouse gas emissions management. .

Company Fleet

Directly addressing fleet-related emissions, AT&T has deployed more than 11,000 alternative fuel vehicles through the end of 2015 — part of our commitment to deploy approximately 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles over a 10-year period through 2018. This includes over 8,000 compressed natural gas vehicles and over 3,000 hybrid electric vehicles. Read more about company fleet and transportation efforts. 

Water

Water is deeply important to the communities in which we serve and our own operations. The network that forms the core of our business requires a controlled and cooled environment, and water is oftentimes a critical input to the cooling equipment we use to create those conditions. We’re working to manage our own water use, and at the same time we’re supporting the development of water management technology.

We continue to look for opportunities to reduce the amount of water we use to power the network. AT&T has previously committed to reducing our electricity consumption relative to data growth on our network by 60 percent by 2020. We look forward to doing the same with water and are committed to also reducing the water consumption of our company relative to data growth on our network by 60 percent by 2020 (using 2013 baseline).

AT&T products and services can also help others manage their water use. Our company provides connectivity for monitoring systems so that users can monitor their water use remotely and in real time. For example, we worked with HydroPoint, a provider of smart water management solutions, to help their customers remotely monitor and manage their irrigation systems and ultimately save 15 billion gallons of water in a single year.

AT&T has also teamed up with Mueller Water Co. and IBM in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Global Smart Cities Challenge, where we will be deploying cellular based technology to demonstrate solutions that can be used to reduce and eliminate unnecessary water loss. Our team aims to place sensors in water distribution infrastructure to collect data about pressure, temperature and leak detection, then wirelessly transmit that data to a smart dashboard that is monitored by a utility.

Read more about our water management.

Disaster Response

If disruptions occur to the network due to extreme weather or other reasons, our business is fundamentally disrupted.  That’s why even before a disaster strikes, AT&T takes steps to prepare network infrastructure. When our network teams build cell sites in disaster-prone areas, all cell sites are built to meet or exceed state structural standards. Regular analysis is conducted to help ensure our cell sites can withstand earthquake loads, wind, ice and other environmental factors; based on analysis by professional engineers, upgrades or modifications are completed to maintain safe, reliable tower capacity and meet or exceed all building codes. We also deploy high-capacity battery backup to our cell sites, which allows them to remain in service in the event of a power loss. To prepare our network for natural disasters, we regularly test the high-capacity backup batteries located at every site and take steps to ensure fixed generators are fueled on a regular basis.

Since 2002, we have invested more than $600 million in our Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) program. Read more in our disaster response issue brief

Supply Chain

We are committed to working with our suppliers to limit our supply chain’s exposure to negative environmental impacts. Suppliers that account for approximately 80 percent of our spend receive our annual Supplier Sustainability Survey and the CDP Supply Chain Survey, both of which ask about a company’s environmental management system and specifically address the management of greenhouse gas emissions. Read more about how we are engaging our supply chain

1http://gesi.org/SMARTer2020

2Based on U.S. businesses with annual revenues of more than $1 billion spending 69 percent of infrastructure, platform and software budgets on cloud services.

3U.S. and U.K. businesses with annual revenues of more than $1 billion deploying a total of almost 10,000 Telepresence units. Savings start accruing in 2010.

4Savings estimated for all ICT technology.

5Savings just for M2M technology.

6Based on Bureau of Transportation Statistics average mpg, Federal Highway Administration average annual mileage and the Energy Information Agency gallons of gasoline per barrel of oil.

7United Nations: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/cities/

8Carbon calculations were derived by Cisco's IBSG, which uses the TRX Airline Carbon Emissions Calculator for impact of air travel avoidance, along with a standard calculation for the impact of ground transportation avoided to and from the meeting and airport, less the impact of energy usage for the Telepresence® application and carbon start up and disposal. Note: Ground transportation to and from the Telepresence® location and airport were assumed equivalent to participants' normal daily commutes, and thus, offset each other.

92015 Urban Mobility Report, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, and http://time.com/money/3511481/traffic-jams-cost-americans-124-billion-time-money/

10http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/about

11http://businessroundtable.org/issues/energy-environment

Updated on: Aug 2, 2016

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