An Interview with John Schulz, Director of Sustainability Operations at AT&T
John Schulz is Director of Sustainability Operations at AT&T. In this role, John works across the business, with customers and with credible third parties to identify how AT&T products and services can be important solutions for pressing environmental and social problems. John began his AT&T career in the Corporate Real Estate group and migrated into leadership roles with the Energy and Corporate Sustainability organizations. GlobeScan Director James Morris recently spoke with John about the key challenges we are currently facing in the world and the technology solutions that AT&T can bring to the table from a citizenship and sustainability perspective.
Q: What do you see as the key challenges we are currently facing in the world?
A: We are in a challenging time because it seems there are countless challenges our society and planet face now and will continue into the future. Think about this: research shows that in the United States nearly 1 in 5 students fail to graduate with their class. To remove barriers to academic success and career growth, and help students succeed — regardless of age, gender, income or geography — AT&T has invested more than $350 million in education initiatives through our AT&T Aspire program. Our employees have also spent more than 1 million hours mentoring middle school and high school students around the country.
We also recognize that climate change is happening and that transitioning to a more resource-efficient world will be a huge contributor to success in the 21st century global economy. We’re working hard to be part of the solution. For instance, we’ve set a goal to enable carbon savings ten times the footprint of our operations by 2025. We call it our “10x” goal. We’ll get there by enhancing the efficiency of our network and delivering low-carbon customer solutions.
Measuring the impact of our initiatives will be a challenge. That’s why I have taken on a new role at AT&T where I’ll be collaborating with internal experts, customers and third-party groups to measure the impacts of our initiatives in an effort to explain how technology can be part of the solution.
Q: Can you share some of the actual technology solutions that AT&T can bring to the table from a citizenship and sustainability perspective?
A: We have talked for many years about how Telepresence, our high-resolution videoconferencing service, can help avoid the emissions and productivity drains of travel. We have also talked about how cloud computing is more efficient and reduces energy and cooling use. And these still hold true, but they are only the beginning.
Ubiquitous connectivity to different “things” is going to bring – and already is bringing – huge efficiency gains, which can translate to positive environmental impacts. For instance, a typical water pipe leak wastes almost 400,000 gallons of water per year – the equivalent of 40 backyard swimming pools. AT&T, IBM and Mueller Water Products teamed up in 2015 to prove that Internet of Things (IoT) technology can help address this issue and others to save water. The companies created an enhanced water management solution as part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Global City Teams Challenge.
We also teamed up with Ericsson on a connected water project to provide remote monitoring of water quality in city watersheds for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in Atlanta. AT&T is providing wireless connectivity for the IoT devices to help with early detection of water contamination.
Then, there is energy conservation. According to studies, cities currently account for 60–80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions on earth. Technology solutions like smart lighting allow maintenance crews to remotely manage a city’s entire lighting system without having to waste time and fuel driving around town to find and replace broken bulbs.
This is only the start. Each of these solutions is just a sampling of what’s going on around us right now. We’re bringing solutions like these to spotlight “smart cities” across the nation like Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and others to make them cleaner, safer and stronger. In addition, the Department of Transportation announced Columbus, Ohio as the winner of their $40 million Smart City Challenge. Smart cities are growing. And the role of IoT solutions and connectivity in these urban canters is only expanding.
Q: What are some of the opportunities you see for your citizenship & sustainability team at AT&T?
A: As my team collaborates with third-party groups to measure the impact of AT&T’s value chain on key environmental and social challenges, we can bring real, concrete value to our business units. For example, by quantifying the environmental benefits of using a certain AT&T technology solution in meaningful terms, we aim to deepen the relationship with customers, hopefully opening the door for more ways to work with the customer and provide more value to them. We expect that these same measurement tools can concurrently be used to drive down operational costs and improve supply chain performance.
Q: GlobeScan was excited to work with you on AT&T’s Connect to Good framework. Can you tell us about this framework and how it helps drive AT&T’s citizenship and sustainability efforts?
A: Connect to Good is AT&T’s vision of using the power of our network to build a better tomorrow. Our goal in everything we do is to create a better, smarter, more connected future. It’s good for our business, and it’s good for our customers, employees, suppliers and communities. To guide our work, we focus on three core areas: People, Planet and Possibilities. Under “People,” we are improving the daily lives of our customers, suppliers and employees. For “Planet,” we are transforming the way we and our customers care for our world. And, under “Possibilities,” we are amplifying the combined strengths of our company and our communities to tackle even more broad challenges.
Q: As part of that, last year you announced a ten-year roadmap of goals and targets which serve as milestones for the Connect to Good journey that you just talked about. Can you elaborate a little bit about these goals and the process that got you there?
A: Our ten-year roadmap of 2025 goals was established with three key areas: our network and customers, our communities and our supply chain. In addition to the "10x" goal I referenced earlier, the other goals we’re striving to achieve over the next decade are:
- In our communities, AT&T will invest resources, develop initiatives and collaborate with stakeholders to close the skills gap by increasing the number of Americans with high-quality, post-secondary degrees or credentials to 60 percent by 2025.
- In our supply chain, we will work with our industry peers to develop and promote adoption of sustainability metrics that will transform the environmental and social impact of technology supply chains.
We’re taking a two-phased approach, with 2020 targets that will put us on a path for accomplishing our 2025 goals. All of these long-term goals help us target our resources and keep us accountable for progress. We have selected these long-term goals to address ourbroad range of stakeholders, the topics identified as most relevant for our business, and where we have the most potential to deliver on our vision and strategy.
Q: Looking forward, what are you personally most excited about in the work that you are doing at AT&T?
A: Setting a series of ambitious ten-year goals was no small task. Actually achieving them will certainly be no small feat either. And that’s why I’m excited. In my new role, I’m focused on helping us achieve our “10x” goal by developing ways to measure and communicate the impacts of our technology. To get there, we will continue to focus on reducing our carbon footprint and improving how we operate. At the same time over the next decade, we’ll be working hard to bring new technologies to market that can bring quantifiable environmental benefits to our customers.
This is new territory. I know there will be unexpected twists and turns. But we have the opportunity to achieve something that can truly make a global impact, and I’m fired up for the challenge!