Transforming ESG reporting for telecom manufacturers

Today, we live in an era where economies are more digitally integrated than ever before and the global telecom sector is pivotal to delivering products and solutions, not just for a more connected world, but also a sustainable one. However, the industry is locked in a constant battle with unique challenges, magnified by the overarching role of its offerings in influencing modern socio-economic outcomes. For instance, the industry currently consumes nearly 3% of global energy. Demand is only expected to rise in the days ahead, resulting in an imminent spike in the industry’s emission profile if left unchecked.  

While innovation around ESG, net-zero targets and sustainability actions are steadily progressing, the question around reporting accurate data is constantly being raised not just by customers and investors, but also regulators. The Voluntary Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility, published by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), marked the beginning of ESG reporting in India in 2009. It was voluntary for the fiscal year 2021–2022 before new guidelines were put into effect, but it is now mandatory for the fiscal year 2022–2023. ESG reporting along with sustainable operations can no longer be overlooked. So how can the telecom sector ensure its manufacturing operations are more attuned to provide transparent and factual Environmental, Social & Governance sustainability metrics?  

The answer, of course, lies in the intersection of technology and policy innovations, and their unorthodox application. 

Reporting through rationalizing energy usage is one such example. For companies across industries, the telecom sector has been the primary conduit for delivering IoT applications and services. However, telecom manufacturers themselves can leverage IoT constructs to target a persisting sustainability issue: optimized energy usage. Vertically integrated IoT suites, including software, sensors, and automation, can continuously monitor and provide end-to-end visibility into the entire value chain for telecom components, rendering the manufacturing environment more efficient and sustainable. With IoT, telecom manufacturers can compare and analyse data collected in real time from the shop floor, and pinpoint operational irregularities leading to unnecessary energy consumption. 

For instance, intelligent sensors embedded on dual-end yarn binders in a fiber optics manufacturing plant can auto-switch off systems while not needed and save energy. Further, IoT’s creative usage may include connected Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) installed into plant machinery to control motor speed in runtime and motion-sensor-enabled lights to sync with usage patterns. Recently, such innovations have enabled manufacturers to save up to 6,000 kWh of energy and avoid over 7,500 tCO2e within just a year as well as report detailed performance around such energy efficiency numbers. 

Improving waste management is another area. With ML, AI algorithms can learn and evolve as per operational necessities and compliance needs and deliver at a pace that is not humanly possible. For instance, research has found that by applying deep learning, it is possible to classify various e-wastes with nearly 97% accuracy. Alongside efficiency, as an added advantage, such an approach prevents human operators from being exposed to hazardous substances while providing accurate and real time data of each waste stream.  

Another major concern is the carbon footprint of telecom manufacturers supply chains. Undoubtedly, the telecom sector spearheads the global push towards Net Zero Emissions. However, according to a report, the industry is responsible for 1.6% of total global CO2 emissions, 90% of which result from its complex supply chains. To drive targeted reduction measures, it is essential to understand the emission profile of telecom operations at multiple phases across the value chain. Here, Big Data platforms and advanced analytics can help by crunching supply chain data in real time and calculating the carbon footprint of telecom products and services at scale to facilitate decision-making. As such transactions are executed in highly secure environments with minimal human intervention, data quality and confidentiality are also guaranteed.

So, as the global telecom sector is called upon to address more and more contemporary challenges, it is unlikely that its mere basic adherence to ESG metrics will suffice anymore. With investors and customers expecting more ambitious sustainability commitments, telecom manufacturers can no longer wait for regulations as a stimulus for positive change. Instead, today it’s a strategic imperative to proactively use technology innovations to report on ESG transparently, thereby helping businesses differentiate themselves in the present, as well as gain resilience for future uncertainties. 



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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