AT&T to Spend More with Suppliers That Track Carbon

AT&T to Spend More with Suppliers That Track Carbon

Image courtesy of AT&T.

AT&T wants to shift more than half of its expenditures to suppliers that track their carbon footprints and save $40 million a year by reducing energy use.

The telecommunications giant revealed these and other new goals today with the release of its 2010 Sustainability Report.

The report marks a new direction for the company by combining sustainability data with the stories behind the numbers. This is the result of feedback the company received from business students at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management. One student recommended the company "mix fact and feeling."

"It speaks to our attempt to try to become more interactive with our audience and become more transparent, not just in the amount of information, but also in the way we talk," said Beth Shiroishi, AT&T's assistant vice president of sustainability.

For more on how the company is using the power of storytelling to convey its sustainability achievements, you can read an exclusive column from Shiroishi here. I caught up with her Monday to get a little more background on some of AT&T's new environmental goals.

AT&T plans to:

1. Dedicate More than Half of Expenditures to Suppliers Who Track GHG Emissions

AT&T launched its Citizenship and Sustainability Principles of Conduct for Suppliers in 2009, before introducing a sustainability self-assessment survey last year. Now the company is drawing a line in the sand with its announcement that it will direct more than half of its expenditures toward suppliers tracking their carbon footprints, or that pledge to do so by 2012.

"This is an interesting one because one of the things we found when we started our carbon emission work, is it helps you understand your operations. You start to ask questions and see opportunities for efficiency," Shiroishi said, adding that the goal is aimed at helping "speed them along that path and make them leaner and more efficient."

2. Expand Green Power Installations by at Least 5 Megawatts

If the company meets this goal, it will have 8 MW of green power that is either online or in the pipeline. The company hasn't decided what the exact renewable energy mix will be, but Shiroishi said at least part of it will be derived from solar power.  "We felt confident we could get another 5 MW online," she said.

3. Give All Corporate Real Estate Management Employees Energy Goals in their Annual Performance Review Scorecards

AT&T introduced an energy scorecard in 2009 for its 500 most energy-intensive buildings. It proved so successful that all facilitiy managers will now be graded. 

"One of the things we've been working toward is making goals tactical and tangible for our employees," Shiroishi told me. "Obviously it brings it home when it's your personal goal."

4. Launch Energy-Reducing Initiatives that Deliver Annual Savings of $40 Million

Those energy scorecards spurred investment in more than 4,000 energy efficiency projects in 2010, yielding $44 million in annualized savings, AT&T announced in March. "We hadn't before set a goal equivalent to that," Shiroishi said of the $44 million. "One of the reasons we wanted to do that was to pony up to a concrete number and continue to push ourselves toward that goal."

Future energy efficiency projects will include consolidating or eliminating lab equipment, improving the power efficiency of computer hardware and pushing data center energy optimization.

The company sizes up its 2010 accomplishments in its new report, but here are a few highlights:

• By the end of 2010, AT&T had added more than 2,400 compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles to its fleet. The company wants to deploy 8,000 CNGs by 2013.

• AT&T reduced its electricity consumption by 16.6 percent below 2009 levels in 2010, relative to data growth on its network. The company's 2010 reduction target was 16 percent.

• AT&T performed a water footprint assessment, which revealed that it used nearly 3.4 billion gallons of water in 2010.

• The company missed its goal of launching customer tools to quantify carbon emissions avoided by using travel-reducing products. The release date of the tool was pushed back from 2010 to the second quarter of 2011.

Image courtesy of AT&T.