Today's economy is based on producing, using and throwing away, however this linear model is not sustainable. The population will continue increasing and there is a to our planet's resources!
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The future is the circular economy: eco-design, reuse, recycling, renewable energies etc. This will increase the GDP by 7%. So, at Telefónica, we are making advancements to become more "circular":
Reinventing ourselves as an ally of the supplier
Our purchase volume of more than 25,000 million euros per year, has made us realise that in this way we can do a lot for the planet. In addition to choosing more and more products with a lower environmental impact, we also ask our suppliers to respect the environment.
We can do so much more with the suppliers, if we are their allies. The agreements for the purchase of renewable energy in the long term (15-20 years) are a good example.
Do more with less
The resource that we use most in Telefónica is energy, therefore our objectives focus on reducing energy consumption and becoming 100% renewable.
In addition, we mustn't forget to save water, a resource that is scarce in countries such as Spain and in cities such as Mexico City and Sao Paulo. We also aim to reduce our use of paper. At present, 53 million customers receive a paperless invoice, which prevents the felling of close to 50,000 trees.
The value of waste
Our sector is under scrutiny due to the increase in electronic waste, which, according to the United Nations, amounts to 44.7 million tonnes per year with only 20% being recycled.
At Telefónica we generate 27,356 tonnes of waste including cables, tubes, paper, cardboard, batteries, routers, customer telephone etc., most of which is recycled. The challenge is to reuse more and also sell what can be sold, which will provide income for our company.
To progress, we are implementing worldwide (offices, base stations, R & D centers ...) GReTel, a digital waste management system.
Less Hazardous Waste
There is waste that can harm our health and the environment. Avoiding this is important for Telefonica. The main hazardous waste generated by our operations is batteries, but there are others like HCFC and electronic equipment, that are present in company. We promote the reduction of waste generation and the recycling when this is not possible. For example, our batteries are 100% recycled, making sure that all hazardous components do not affect the environment.
Taking into account hazardous substances is essential to reduce hazardous waste.
With this purpose, the Telefónica Group's Supply Chain Sustainability Policy incorporates for example consideration on the durability criteria in batteries, so that their substitution and, therefore, the generation of this waste (the most important hazardous waste in Telefonica), is performed less frequently, thus reducing the quantity of waste generated every year (in terms relative to the activity).
Moreover, in this Policy, we also require compliance with REACH and RoHS, in all the materials provided for all our countries (also outside the EU), reducing dangerous substances in our products. This is allowing us to reduce hazardous waste.
Another example included in this Policy is the ban of R22 in our purchases.
Finally, to reduce our waste generation, and specifically hazardous waste, we have developed GRETEL, Telefonica’s digital platform for waste management, that allow us a complete traceability of waste and used equipment generated in all countries, and that is helping us to stablish global targets to promote circular economy.
Involving the customers
A recent study, conducted by Unilever, revealed that 33% of the people would buy a product if they believed that it would benefit society and the environment. Right now, perhaps you don't know many people like this, but they do exist and they will gradually increase.
That is why we facilitate the reuse or recycling of their old mobile phone and the purchase of another more efficient and sustainable one. And with our virtualisation services or waste management (Smart Waste), among others, we help them get on the circular economy bandwagon.
Besides we share with our customers information about the social and environmental impact of the products we sell, to help them make informed product decisions.
When a new phone is produced, we work with the manufacturer's to assess its sustainability credentials, providing an overall rating between 0 and 5. This is call Eco rating. The higher the rating the more sustainable the phone is.
We worked with leading independent sustainability experts Forum for the Future and handset suppliers to develop this initiative.
Can it be done differently?
To innovate, you do not need to be rocket scientist. Everyone, in our day-to-day lives, can rethink how we do things in order to reuse what we have, lengthen its useful life, consume the least amount of resources as possible, using the cloud, being conscious of recycling, etc. etc. This is the culture that we want to consolidate in Telefónica to be, increasingly, more circular.