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ESG in the TMT Industry: Telecom Operators to Reduce Carbon Footprint, AgTech to Bring Savings and Reduce Emissions

ECOLOGYESG in the TMT Industry: Telecom Operators to Reduce Carbon Footprint, AgTech to Bring Savings and Reduce Emissions

Changes related to sustainable development are transforming the technology, media and telecommunication industry. Eco-friendly solutions implemented by operators will reduce their carbon footprint by 12 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent this year, according to the Technology Media & Telecommunications Predictions 2024 report prepared by consulting firm Deloitte. Meanwhile, new precision farming technologies may provide farmers with savings of up to $100 billion by 2030.

The report developed by Deloitte identifies global TMT trends and explores how many of them are currently driven by economic and social changes. This year, issues related to sustainable development have largely come to the fore. These trends may have the most significant impact on businesses and consumers in the coming year, including the increase in sales of ESG reporting software and the development of agricultural technology.

Telecommunication Companies to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Our report shows that telecommunication operators worldwide will be able to reduce their carbon footprint by 2% in 2024, equivalent to 12 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This result is likely to be repeated in 2025. The reduction will largely be due to strategies developed in recent years, such as purchasing more renewable energy, more efficient management of data centers, and encouraging consumers to change device models less frequently and buy used phones, said Marta Karwacka, Senior Manager, Sustainability Consulting, Deloitte.

Joining these solutions will be four new trends or, at least, trends not previously utilized on a larger scale: the deactivation of copper cables and 3G wireless networks, the electrification of telecommunications companies’ vehicle fleets, and the transition to 5G radio equipment with a power-save feature. Abandoning copper cables can not only reduce carbon dioxide emissions but also result in savings of billions of dollars annually for operators. Optical fiber is easier to maintain and requires much less intervention than copper, and it consumes up to 80% less energy.

The shutdown of 3G networks, which consume a disproportionately high amount of energy for their user numbers, also benefits the environment. Over the past six years, 3G has been shut down by 58 operators in 22 countries. Experts predict that 15 more operators in six countries will join them in 2024, followed by another 26 operators in 10 countries in 2025.

Optimally managed 5G networks are 90% more efficient than the previous generation. However, older types of equipment using this technology do not handle standby mode well and don’t efficiently adjust energy consumption to use. This is set to change this year with the deployment of new 5G units that consume significantly less energy thanks to artificial intelligence algorithms and new semiconductor circuits. Importantly, the energy use of the 5G network is potentially up to 50% lower than the previous generation’s, and even up to 94% lower during periods of low load.

Deloitte experts also note that maintaining tens of thousands of cell phone towers and connecting millions of households and businesses require a vast fleet of off-road vehicles, trucks, and vans. It’s important to remember that while industrial vehicles represent only 20% of all vehicles, they account for 60% of emissions in road transport. Meanwhile, the pace of electrification is accelerating with the development of charging networks and the increase in the production of electric vehicles.

Increase in Sales of ESG Reporting Software

Under pressure from various stakeholder groups, more businesses are engaging in reporting indicators related to ecology, social responsibility, and corporate governance (ESG). The sale of standardized ESG reporting software is likely to exceed $1 billion this year. Currently, the primary challenge related to ESG reporting methods is their standardization. Different ways of calculating emissions lead to unreliable results, particularly as companies are expected to assess not only their emissions and media consumption but also those generated by entities in their supply and value chains.

New legal regulations and the standards set by them will soon become the benchmark. For example, the European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) significantly increases the number of companies obliged to disclose information about sustainable development. It also imposes double materiality requirements. Companies must, therefore, report both the impact of ESG on the company and the influence of their activities on society and the environment. Regulatory changes are also occurring in the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and other countries, and these regulations will come into force in 2024-2025.

Our analysis showed that 62% of the surveyed company directors are ready to increase reporting requirements or are currently undertaking thorough preparations in this area. It is essential to maintain a balance between ESG goals and innovation and competitiveness, and these two elements do not exclude each other. A comprehensive approach to reporting means reducing real risk and creating new opportunities for companies, says Irena Pichola, partner, leader of the Sustainable Development team in Poland and Central Europe, Deloitte.

Development of Technology in Agriculture

Agricultural technology (AgTech) solutions are revolutionizing agricultural production, especially in the areas of field preparation, crop cultivation and protection, harvests, and livestock management. Currently, at least 10 large technology and telecommunications companies are driving the agricultural industry through innovative solutions. These include Artificial Intelligence-based cultivation methods, data management platforms for farms and livestock, as well as smart agriculture and vertical farming. These types of cultivation utilize satellite technology, broadband connectivity, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Deloitte predicts that nearly 300 million IoT end-devices will be installed for precise crop cultivation, livestock management, and agricultural equipment tracking by the end of 2024—a 50% increase compared to 2022. Meanwhile, the total revenues from agricultural technology in 2024 are expected to reach $18 billion worldwide.

The application of agricultural technologies can potentially reduce emissions and lower the cost of farmers’ inputs. Deloitte’s 2022 study predicts that precision farming technologies alone could potentially reduce emissions by 9.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent between 2020-2050. Moreover, they could save farmers up to $100 billion by 2030. The new solutions will help agriculture achieve sustainable development goals and simultaneously have a positive impact on food prices and availability.

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