Today’s rapid technology innovation and consumption patterns are contributing to an accumulation of electronic devices in landfills. To address the issue, several telecom carriers have established end-of-life product-management systems, whereby used mobile phones and electronic consumer goods, telecommunications poles, antennas and old network equipment are systematically collected for reuse. Leading companies are going further by incorporating eco-design criteria such as material selection and energy efficiency into their product design. But little is being done to systematically address hazardous waste expelled in the sourcing, manufacturing, distribution, and disposal cycles. Many companies featured on this list fail to report programs and targets to reduce the generation of wastes such as lead, batteries, and fuel, or to disclose details on third-party waste audits.
Key Industry Impacts
• Water use, greenhouse-gas emissions, and general waste generation and disposal combined account for more than 85 percent of the total environmental footprint of Telecommunication companies.
Critical Issue Profile: Electronic Waste
“E-waste”—or discarded electronic goods—is estimated to be growing at a rate of 40 million tons per year. Much of this waste is improperly deposited in landfills or incinerated, releasing toxins and other pollutants, such as lead and fire retardants, into the local environment. What’s worse, e-waste is often exported to developing countries, where it is dismantled under poorly regulated conditions. As a whole, the industry is taking action on e-waste mainly through phone take-back and recycling programs. Participation in multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the United Nations-sponsored program, Solving the e-Waste Problem (StEP), is considered a best practice. These activities should be supported by annual, company-wide collection targets and deadlines. Sprint, for example, has an electronics-stewardship policy and is committed to collecting nine phones for reuse and recycling for every 10 phones the company sells by 2017.
Industry Ranking: How U.S. Telecom Companies Stack Up
|Industry Rank||Company||Overall Rank||Industry Sector||Impact||Management||Disclosure||Green Score||2011 Green Score||1||Sprint Nextel||3||Telecommunications||72.4||84.3||70.2||77.5||75.6||2||AT&T||28||Telecommunications||70.7||72.3||55.6||69.9||67.1||3||Verizon Communications||54||Telecommunications||71.0||64.9||57.9||66.9||59.9||4||CenturyLink||215||Telecommunications||67.4||41.5||57.4||54.7||53.5||5||Level 3 Communications||317||Telecommunications||74.2||36.4||0.0||49.7||N/A||6||Windstream||322||Telecommunications||74.2||31.9||16.7||49.4||49.2||7||Telephone and Data Systems||348||Telecommunications||74.2||32.9||0.0||48.2||47.9||8||Frontier||349||Telecommunications||74.2||32.9||0.0||48.2||47.9||9||NII Holdings||359||Telecommunications||74.2||31.9||0.0||47.7||47.5|