Green Business Awards 2010: Carbon emissions performance

Winner - BT

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Back in 1992, Britain was grappling with the ERM, the first George Bush was in the White House and while the Rio Summit put climate change on the map, it would be five years before countries signed up to mandatory emissions limits at Kyoto.

That same year, BT became one of the first companies in the world to set a carbon reduction target, following it up with a fully fledged carbon reduction programme in 1997.

Since then, the telecoms giant has reduced its carbon intensity by a remarkable 54% and has set the target that by 2020 the carbon intensity of its business will be 80% lower than in 1997.

Achieving these figures in a business employing over 100,000 people requires initiatives on many fronts and on a huge scale. One of the most significant areas of activity has been in sourcing renewables. In 2004, BT signed the world's then largest contract for low-carbon energy; 40% of its UK electricity consumption is now from renewable sources. The company has announced a planned £250m investment in wind farms - the largest outside the electricity supply sector - with the first planning permission at Red Gap Farm near Hartlepool already secured. Wind should provide 25% of the company's UK electricity by 2016.

And the company has been improving the way it manages heat and light in its buildings: it plans to instal intelligent boiler optimisation at 23 sites. The technology was trialled last year and can significantly reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions from heating systems.

Reducing energy consumption has also been a major focus. Switching off unused equipment has saved 31 GigaWatt hours of power; streamlining data centres a further 15 GWh; reducing office space and adjusting heating systems, another 56 GWh; and reducing the distance covered by BT's vehicle fleet has cut fuel consumption by 20%. Last year, video conferencing helped BT cut the number of flights made by employees by 20%. BT has also introduced low-energy products including home telephones and set-top boxes.

Some 7,000 employees have signed up to reduce their carbon footprints at home and work, a number BT aims to treble by 2012. And leadership on BT's effort comes from the very top: chairman Sir Michael Rake heads the committee that sets targets and monitors results.

BT's efforts have already gained widespread recognition: it was one of the first companies to be certified by the Carbon Trust and has ISO14001 accreditation covering 95% of its revenues.

Now the company wants to do more - BT Global Services is offering a carbon impact assessment service to help businesses and government bodies quantify their emissions. BT has set an important precedent: if a business this size can do it, then so can those without its scale.


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