How do we realistically achieve sustainability in telecoms?

APRIL 13, 2023 • Q&A


Jeff Edlund, chief technology officer of HPE's Communications Technology Group, explains where we are in our sustainability goals, and what’s next in the industry.

Achieving significant reductions in energy usage and carbon emissions in the telecoms sector takes an attitude change, but more importantly, it’ll take industry cooperation to become a reality. But making climate change goals also requires a technology shift that will drive traffic growth and threaten to push up energy usage.

Where do we see the telecom sector being able to make traction towards sustainability goals?  

The good news for operators is that the investments they make now in equipment and services designed to help them reach their goals will have a much broader, long-standing impact on their businesses.

Most global telecoms operators have detailed plans to reduce emissions in the coming years. Scope 1 and 2 emissions are direct and indirect emissions respectively, generated by fuel usage or the electricity companies purchase to run their networks. Scope 3 accounts for 80% of telecoms emissions and refers to the entire value chain – from equipment produced by the telcos’ suppliers to emissions generated by products and services supplied to end-users.

Naturally, reducing Scope 3 emissions needs cooperation and technology executives are increasingly looking to us to utilize our expertise.

How does reducing emissions migrate from an attitude change to a long-lasting impact change?

Currently, HPE is working with Intel to help service provider customers with their 5G rollouts, and a key part of that is helping them to meet their sustainability goals.  Imperatively, taking a data-first approach to the network. This involves putting intelligence at the network edges and only transporting data and communications back to the core when necessary.

Modern software building technologies are also a must. Software needs to be built from the ground up for cloud native services that are deployed as microservices, which are only used when they are needed. There is also a need for efficient programming languages to reduce the burden on the infrastructure, enabling it to consume less energy, and continued innovation in compute infrastructure for power reductions.


HPE is one of several companies in the vendor community to be aiming to achieve net zero across Scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2040. How is that happening?

In 2022, HPE required all staff at VP level and above to undertake climate training and, starting in 2023, its executive committee members will have part of their bonus calculation based on them setting low-carbon roadmaps for the parts of the business that they run.

Ultimately for HPE, helping telcos to reduce their carbon footprint will also bring our own down; 65% of our footprint comes from customers using our products.


Going back to the industry cooperation needed to make any headway, why is this the differentiator?

This kind of change requires partnership across the entire ecosystem. This isn't just about cost and ploughing more dollars into investment in the network just to get to business as usual. This is about using our dollars efficiently to optimise the things that we do today and for the future – and we’ll find that the investment pays back far more than was ever put into it.


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