Taking the next step in our net zero journey

By Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT Group

I only have to think back five years or so to a time when the majority of mainstream investors I spoke to would glaze over at the mention of environmental sustainability. In a short space of time we’ve seen a huge shift in opinions and it is now at the top of the agenda of issues we must all deal with.

2021 kicks off what is widely referred to as ‘the climate decade’. A ten-year period where our collective actions will determine the kind of world our children and grandchildren will inherit. ‘Collective’ is the critical factor here because no person, business or Government can tackle climate change single-handedly.

BT has led on climate action for 30 years. We were one of the first companies in the world to set a science-based carbon reduction target and in the years since we’ve worked hard to reduce our emissions head on.

We’re now using 100% renewable electricity worldwide – which means that your BT broadband network and EE mobile network are both entirely powered by clean electricity. We’ve outlined plans to transition the majority of our 33,000 strong fleet to electric or zero emissions vehicles by 2030. and we’re working with our supply chain to help them reduce their carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2030.

Last week, we went a step further, announcing a new 2030 net zero target for our own operations, and a 2040 net zero target for our supply chain and customer emissions. Previously, we’d committed to be net zero by 2045 for all emissions.

To meet these new ambitious targets, we’ll work closely with our customers and suppliers, and will press ahead with plans to retire legacy networks such as the 3G mobile network by 2023 and the public switched telephone network (PSTN) by the end of 2025. Any residual emissions will be covered by high quality carbon offsets, which the company will invest in.

We’ll also continue to innovate in products and services alongside the roll out of full fibre broadband to 25 million homes and businesses by December 2026 and the offer of high performance 5G solutions across the entire UK by 2028 which will help underpin many of the innovative solutions needed to achieve a net zero carbon economy.

But as we all know, our efforts – and those of other leading businesses - are not enough. We need others to follow. Which is why we’re calling on all businesses to set their own ambitious but realistic net zero targets for 2050 at the latest and to engage with their customers, colleagues and supply chains about climate change, what it means for them and what they can do to make a difference.

With a customer base of 30 million households and one million SMEs, BT is well placed to help our customers and the wider general public cut emissions.

A recent study carried out by BT found that despite climate change being the third most important issue for people after mental and physical health, almost half believed that they were incapable of tackling climate change.

Our Smarter Living Challenge showed that UK households have an important part to play in fighting climate change, and when combined, small sustainable lifestyle changes supported by technology can make a big difference. In some cases saving up to £938 and up to 1.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) if actions were sustained over a year.

With that in mind, we think it’s time for a wider conversation. That’s why we’ve launched our BT Big Sofa Summit.

We want to get friends, families and even work colleagues talking about the small things they can do to help combat climate change – proving you don't need to be a world leader to do your bit for the environment.

We’ll provide free practical advice, tips and resources on the small steps everyone can take to cut household emissions and we’ve teamed up with some familiar faces to get you thinking, including presenter, actress and singer Kimberley Walsh plus Jordan Banjo and Perri Kiely from Bafta award winning dance troupe Diversity, who will hold their own sofa summit. To find out more visit www.bt.com/BigSofaSummit

So, the climate crisis is closing in. But it’s not too late. We need to do more and we need to do it fast. We all have a role to play, and when future generations look back, I want 2021 to be remembered as the year the world acted and pulled back from the brink.

Climate talks later this year should inspire hope and optimism. But actions speak louder than words and if we’re to truly build back better, we must all grab the opportunity to work together to create a fairer, more resilient, low carbon society.