The new alliance, called the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), brings together some of the world's biggest information and communications technology (ICT) companies and their industry associations and is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
It is the first alliance of its kind to involve both telecommunications operators and their suppliers who have committed to manage their own business operations in an environmentally friendly way and also promote sustainable business practices and technologies around the world.
"Modern telecommunications - a major theme of this year's international World Environment Day celebrations - is transforming the way the world works and by enabling access to the global economy can make a major contribution toward human development," said Klaus Töpfer, UNEP's Executive Director. "It also offers hope for reducing some of the great environmental threats of this new millennium like climate change," he added.
With a common vision to "make a key contribution to a global sustainable future" founding members of this new voice on the environment include: AT&T, British Telecommunications, Cable & Wireless, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Lucent Technologies, Marconi, Telcordia Technologies , Telenor and the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association.
"At a time in history when our technologies are bringing people closer together it follows that businesses also work together to contribute to the societies within which they operate," says Chris Tuppen, Chair of the Interim GeSI steering group. "The launch of GeSI will build on existing voluntary activities and act as the focus for a global network of companies and organisations working on sustainability issues in the ICT sector."
"A central aim of the ITU is to facilitate activities related to telecom sector development which are of mutual benefit to all partners," said Hamadoun Touré, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau. Under its Valetta Action Plan, approved by ITU member governments during the 1998 World Telecommunication Development Conference, ITU has committed to bring tangible support and improvement in environmental protection, among other areas, through ICT applications.
As an industry, telecommunications tends to be relatively clean. However, as many other industries, it consumes vast amounts of energy, generates waste and affects the physical environment in various ways. Responding to this challenge, the GeSI encourages corporate environmental monitoring and the sharing of best practices like reducing and recycling of waste, saving energy and developing products "designed for the environment."
A key contribution of ICT to environmental protection is in the transport sector. Videoconferencing, tele-banking, telelearning and teleshopping, for example, can eliminate the need for travel so reducing traffic (less congestion and pollution) and the emission of greenhouse gases - the major cause of global warming.
The participating companies in GeSI have agreed on an exciting range of activities ranging from environmental management in their internal operations, to exploring options for remote and disadvantaged communities in developing countries to get 'online'.
Over the next two years, the GeSI will support research on the role that information and communications technology can play in advancing sustainable development - climate change, waste reduction and the digital divide are among the main issues that will be addressed first. Participating companies are also looking into how best to "outreach" their knowledge and experience to enable businesses around the world to take new opportunities and expand markets while displaying corporate social and environmental responsibility at the same time.
All GeSI members are striving to improve their own internal environmental performance - see below and case studies in the press kit for more information.
Note to Journalists
The Global e-Sustainability Initiative will be launched at the main World Environment Day press conference in Torino, Italy, at midday (12.00) on 5 June. Location: Lingotto Conference Center, via Nizza 280. For accreditation contact Francesca Ferrandino on tel +39-011-8193151.
For more information contact Robert Bisset, UNEP Spokesman's Office (and press officer in Torino from 2 June) on mobile: + 33 6 2272 58 42, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about World Environment Day go to http://www.unep.org/wed/2001
UNEP News Release 01/78
Note to Editors
A press kit for the launch of GeSI, including case studies from the participating companies, will be available at the press conference and from 5 June on the GeSI web site: http://www.gesi.org
For more information on the Initiative, please contact:
c/o UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
39-43, quai Andre Citroen
75739 Paris Cedex 15 France
Tel: +33 1 44 37 14 50
Fax: +33 1 44 37 14 74
Ms Vineeta Shetty
Communication and Promotion Officer
Telecommunication Development Bureau
International Telecommunication Union
Tel: +41 22 730 5418
Fax: +41 22 730 5484
British Telecommunications plc
Cable & Wireless plc
Deutsche Telekom AG
European Telecommunications Network Operators Association
Lucent Technologies Inc.
Telcordia Technologies Inc
Case Studies (extracts). See the GeSI launch press kit for more information.
Cutting down carbon dioxide emissions
BT has calculated that employee use of audio and video conferencing saved over 150 million miles of travel in 2000, contributing to a total company CO2 saving of 1 million tonnes per annum. According to AT&T increased teleworking by their staff in 2000 avoided 110 million miles of car travel which they translate into preventing almost 50,000 tones of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere. From 1996 to 2000, Deutsche Telekom reduced pollutant emissions from their vehicle fleet by 25 per cent.
Minimizing waste - Maximizing energy
In December 2000, Marconi started a best practice "waste management project" at their Liverpool (UK) site. They installed an auto waste-to-heat recovery system to burn their waste and convert the heat to usable energy resulting in less landfill, provision of "free" hot water and also reductions of fossil fuel transport and heating emissions. In an effort to minimize their waste, AT&T estimate that they recycled 73% of their waste paper in 2000 and saved over 73 million sheets of paper by converting their office practices to intranet/internet paperless office practices.
Sustainability and the supply chain
A product "life-cycle" approach, from concept through to disposal, in the development and delivery of all products and services, minimizes the depletion of natural resources such as energy and maximizes the potential for recycling. In support of this approach, the participating companies work closely with customers, suppliers, trade and industry associations and standards organisations to develop and promote sustainable management systems and business solutions.
Cable & Wireless has incorporated environmental criteria into the Request for Quote document for all suppliers in the UK. These cover details of their environment policy, management systems, main impacts, audits and regulatory compliance. Lucent Technologies has developed a method that helps business identify products that can be characterized as environmentally friendly.