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Telecommunications operators and suppliers join forces to shape global initiative for sustainable development

Paris/Nairobi, 31 October 2000 - Representatives of major telecommunications operators and suppliers met on 12-13 October to review progress made in setting up the Global Telecom Initiative under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The initiative seeks to improve the global environment, to promote sustainable development, and to put telecommunications technology to work on behalf of human and natural communities everywhere. At the meeting, hosted by Bell Canada in Montreal, participants agreed on follow-up actions to secure the involvement of leading companies and officially launch the initiative in the first half of next year.

The proposal for a global initiative was made previously by UNEP, ITU, the European Telecommunication Network Operators Association (ETNO) and North American participants. The meeting in Montreal was the first to involve suppliers, as foreseen by operator companies during their first meeting in Paris at UNEP's Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) in February this year.

The involvement of supplier companies was spurred by a communique of the CEO Forum of the World Telecommunications Congress 2000, issued in May this year. On behalf of various supplier companies, CEOs at the time agreed to promote in particular the three E's: education, environment and e-business. Participants at the meeting in Montreal discussed ways of expanding the initiative to include all actors involved in the production chain. The chair of the initiative's steering group, Dr Chris Tuppen of British Telecom, explained the benefits companies gain through their involvement in terms of considerations such as reputation, influence and cost minimisation.

Addressing participants, UNEP DTIE Director Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel highlighted how pleased UNEP is to see the partnership growing. It is building on the important work that has been done in North America through the environmental charter of the Communications Environmental Excellence Initiative (CEEI) and in Europe through the environmental charter of ETNO. She also highlighted the role of the global initiative in advancing outreach, providing a platform for dialogue between stakeholders and between societies, and providing linkages with new developments in areas such as environmental management tools.

During discussions, the role of pressure from customers, shareholders, investors and non-governmental organizations for greater environmental and corporate social responsibility was acknowledged. Participants noted the over-arching role of the Global Compact of the United Nations Secretary-General. Discussion of outreach also underlined the need to reach out internally, within companies. Mention was made of the need for business integration, moving beyond the environmental focus only. Participants also recognized the importance of complementing the environmental focus by encouraging the use of communications to improve the quality of life.

Participants welcomed the opportunity to join UNEP and the ITU in addressing matters such as the growing digital divide and the role that information and communications technology can play in advancing sustainable development. It is foreseen that the initiative will also make a sector specific contribution by assisting in the sectoral adaptation of sustainability reporting guidelines and helping UNEP in preparing a sectoral industry report for the Rio+10 event in 2002. The report will reflect progress made in the telecommunications sector in support of Agenda 21.

The event was also the occasion for the host of the meeting, Mr Yves Ouimet of Bell Canada, to welcome Télébec as a new signatory to the North American charter.

In addition to UNEP, the ITU and the Centre for Resource Management (CRM), the following companies attended the meeting:

Alcatel, AT&T, Belgacom, Bell Canada, British Telecom, Cable & Wireless, Deutsche Telecom, Ericsson, France Telecom, Lucent Technologies, Marconi, Motorola, Nokia, Nortel Networks, Qwest, Siemens, Telcordia Technologies, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, S.A., and Verizon Communications

For further information, please contact:
Cornis van der Lugt,
UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE),
tel +33.1.44.37.14.45, fax +33.1.44.37.14.74,
e-mail: cornis.lugt@unep.fr,
webpage: http://www.uneptie.org/.

In Nairobi, please contact
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman/Director of Communications and Public Information;
tel.: (254-2) 623292; fax: 623692;
email: cpiinfo@unep.org

UNEP News Release 00/49

Tuesday 31 Oct 2000
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