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5 Tips For Selecting A Sustainable Telco Partner

Senior IT decision makers, regardless of the industry they work in, are well aware that technology plays, and will continue to play, a leading role in greening their businesses. Yet despite this widespread acknowledgement, some areas of technology are either slow to participate in the sustainability game or are not making their voices heard in what is becoming a crowded market.

Telecommunications is one such sector. Recent Verdantix research finds that key decision makers, such as Chief Technology Officers and Heads of Telecoms, are often unaware of what sustainable offerings telecoms providers have, nor do they realize the benefits of such offerings. This suggests that telecoms marketers have some PR homework to do, to ensure that the sustainability benefits of their service lines are communicated to target audiences.

In our research on Europe's sustainable telecoms market, we took a close look at how telco technology is greening businesses. The telecoms sector has a host of sustainable solutions: video or web conferencing; cloud computing; online collaboration; and teleworking capabilities -- to name just a few. These products offer businesses tangible benefits, including lower carbon emissions and reduced travel costs, yet these benefits are unknown by many potential buyers.

At Verdantix, we analyzed the sustainability capabilities and market momentum of 18 European telecoms operators -- this is the third sector analysis in three years -- and using research from 2009 as a benchmark, our Green Quadrant Sustainable Telecoms Europe 2011 identifies a change in how operators approach sustainability.

Over the past year, leading players such as Orange and Swisscom have upped their game; integrating sustainability benefits such as carbon cutting and energy efficiency into standard telecoms offerings. We expect their competitors will be quick to follow this approach in 2012.

Another trend that has emerged over the past year is a sense of cohesion within the sector: What were once ad hoc offerings and standalone sustainability products are now industry-standard services. But as buyers' comments testify, this alignment has still yet to trickle down to external marketing campaigns in many cases.

From a customer panel formed of 15 buyers of sustainable telecoms services, representing five countries and 10 industries with combined annual revenues of $249 billion, we found that only five of these buyers describe telecoms services providers as "very important" or "important" for their sustainability initiatives.

Yes, potential buyers keep sustainability in the forefront of their mind when selecting a telecoms provider -- benefits such as cost reduction and reduced emissions can be felt across every industry -- but that does not mean that buyers are aware of the full range of sustainable telecoms solutions available.

Why else would six of the 15 buyers claim to have only a "neutral" view on the importance of telecoms operators in contributing to their business's sustainability goals?

Taking both telecoms' sustainability offerings, and buyers' comments and concerns, we have identified five best practice recommendations to help firms minimize business risk when selecting a sustainable telecoms provider. These guidelines are particularly relevant given the market for sustainable telecoms services will expand in 2012. Verdantix recommends that potential buyers: 

1) Ask for names. What are telecoms already doing? A list of existing clients gives proof, or otherwise, of how individual offerings deliver financial and sustainable benefits. Risk-averse buyers should ask for named examples.
2) Spot the difference. Does a telco have a sustainability offering with a difference? Buyers should put suppliers on the spot, and ask what added value their offering provides when compared to their competitors.
3) Question sustainability success. Is there evidence that a telco's solution brings measurable financial and sustainability benefits? Choose your questions carefully, asking, for example, what the average Power Usage Effectiveness is of the telecom's data centres, or what efficiency targets are in place.
4) Look for top-down commitment. If sustainability is integrated into a telecoms' organizational structure, that's a good sign. Telcos with a Chief Sustainability Officer are well placed to drive a customer-centric sustainability strategy forwards.
5) Identify innovation. Is the operator willing to move beyond traditional areas of strength, to push sustainability within the business? Buyers should enquire about plans, such as partnerships, to facilitate innovation. 

Five telecoms operators emerged as European sustainability leaders in our research: AT&T, BT, Orange (France Télécom), Swisscom and Telefónica. These telcos take a holistic approach to sustainability, integrating it across their product and service lines, leading it internally and commercializing its benefits externally. Other smaller operators may be a better fit for certain buyers.

As the sustainable telecoms market expands and telcos increase their services these five best practice guidelines will help simplify the selection process and ensure buyers find a supplier that is the best match for their sustainable telecoms needs.

Verdantix clients can visit our website to access the full report, "Green Quadrant Sustainable Telecoms Europe 2011."

Photo CC-licensed by killahkazk.

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