How mobile industry is contributing to the SDGs?

The GSMA presented last September the seventh annual Mobile Industry Impact Report: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), demonstrating the industry commitment to the 2030 Agenda. 

José María Bolufer

José María Bolufer de Francia

Reading time: 3 min

The GSMA presented last September 21st the seventh annual Mobile Industry Impact Report: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), demonstrating the industry commitment to the 2030 Agenda. 

Six years ago, the telecommunication sector became one of the first industries to commit to the 17 United Nations SDGs.

This new edition report has a strong focus on digital inclusion and shows how is related to sustainable development through four main pillars:

1. Inclusive access: Connecting everyone to mobile internet

According to the GSMA report, by the end of 2021, 66% of the global population were using a mobile phone, while 55% of the global population, were also using mobile internet. This includes more than 3.3 billion mobile internet subscribers in low- and middle-income countries, where mobile is the primary and, in many cases only, form of internet access.

Operators’ investments in network infrastructure have contributed to reducing the coverage gap for mobile broadband networks from 1.4 billion people in 2015 to 400 million people in 2021.

“Our vision at the GSMA is to unlock the full power of connectivity so that people, industry and society thrive.” José María Álvarez-Pallete López, Chairman and CEO of Telefónica and Chairman of the GSMA

2. Inclusive connectivity: Making the most of mobile internet

Digital inclusion is not only about infrastructure, round 3.2 billion people who are covered by networks are still unable to obtain the benefits of connectivity, due affordability, lack of digital knowledge and skills, privacy and security, and other implications.

Telefónica´s efforts to ensure the safe use of digital technologies, our initiatives that provide internet access to vulnerable groups and our training programmes for digital skills are some examples of the progress we have made in this pillar.

The World Benchmarking Alliance recognised us as the world’s largest operator in the digital technology (ICT) sector for our commitment and work towards digital inclusion.

3. Inclusive planet: Building a greener society

Efforts from society, government, and enterprises must be done to mitigate the climate crisis and accelerate progress on climate related SDGs. The mobile industry is moving toward this direction, proof of this we can confirm in this report that one third of the operators in the global market had made net zero emissions commitments.

Telefónica is committed to achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions across the value chain by 2040.

Mobile industry improving the energy efficiency of their networks has also made a bigger proportionate impact through the digitisation of other industries, improving their productivity and decarbonizating them.

4. Inclusive business: Understanding the benefits of being a purpose-driven company

Nowadays stakeholders are turning their attention to ESG issues. Sustainability is a strong trend, the main players are committed, and in this specific juncture if companies cannot prove that they are truly sustainable they won’t receive any fonds. For this reason, ESG metrics are indispensable tools.

Mobile industry’s SDG contributions

Fortunately, the mobile industry has improved the impact in 2021, there are now eleven SDGs where mobile’s contribution is over 50, compared to six in 2020 and none in 2015.

It´s relevant to highlight that mobile industry remains to reach its main impact on SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, determined by the reach of digital services.

Case Studies

The document presents 17 case studies from the most relevant telecommunications role players such as Telefónica. Our presented case is about the sustainable and responsible capital and the new sources of financing to achieve our targets. We can proudly affirm that Telefónica was the first issuer of senior green bonds and hybrid green and sustainable instruments of the telecommunication sector.

Telefónica is one of the leading issuers of ESG financing in the telecoms sector.

Not only that, but also the funds we obtained have been assigned to finance investments in green and social projects, such as network conversion from copper to fibre (more efficient and has fewer breakdowns), the promotion of employment generation and entrepreneurship and the development of digital services in rural areas and 5G technology.

Telefónica has set a target that 25% of funding will be linked to sustainability by 2024.

The main SGDs impacted through Telefónica´s ESG financing were: 

  • 13 | Climate Action
  • 5 | Gender Equality
  • 9 | Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • 8 | Decent Work and Economic Growth


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