Accelerating action on Net Zero through collaboration

British Antarctic Survey

Accelerating action on net zero through collaboration – a BT Group perspective

Taking climate action is nothing new for us at BT Group – it’s something we’ve been doing for thirty years. We set our first carbon reduction target in 1992, before many companies were even thinking about carbon targets and in 2008, we set our first science-based target to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of our business by 80% by 2020.   

After meeting our 80% reduction target four years ahead of time, we decided to be even more ambitious. Following the Paris Agreement, it seemed obvious to me that a company like BT Group, who wants to be a leader on climate action, needed to set a science based target aligned to a 1.5 degree pathway. So in 2017, we were one of the first companies in the world to do so, announcing a target to reduce the carbon emissions of our operations by another 87% (on top of the 80% we had already achieved) by the end March 2031.  

In December 2021, we accelerated our net zero goals by pledging to be net zero by end of March 2031 for our own operations, and by end of March 2041 for our supply chain and customer emissions. 

We are focusing on three areas to decarbonise our operations: continuing to use 100% renewable electricity worldwide, decarbonising our estate, and thirdly and our biggest challenge – to convert our fleet, which together with Openreach, is the second largest fleet in the UK with 33,000 vehicles.

That’s why BT and Openreach joined forces with the Climate Group in the summer of 2020 to launch the UK Electric Fleets Coalition. Over 30 fleet operators are now part of the coalition, and we are advocating for the acceleration of electric vehicles in the UK and for supportive policies that will help speed up the transition and create the operating environment we need, such as supply of vehicles, grants and availability of nationwide charging infrastructure.

We set up the Coalition because we know that collective climate action has helped us make progress faster, scale ambition and inspire others, for example through initiatives like RE100 and the science based targets initiative.

As many other companies in the telecoms sector, our own operations account for only a small percentage of our total carbon footprint. While 6% of our emissions come from our own operations, 70% are from our upstream supply chain, and 23% from customers using our products and services.

Working with suppliers to reduce their own carbon emissions is key if we want to reach our net zero supply chain target.  We have a number of initiatives focusing on reducing supply chain emissions, for example:

  • – using our purchasing power with 15% of our adjudication criteria being linked to environmental and human rights procurement standards and all suppliers undergo assessment with regards to sustainability before they are on-boarded
  • – building a carbon reduction clause into key contracts whereby suppliers are required to make measurable carbon savings during the life of their contract with us.
  • – asking our suppliers to disclose to CDP – this helps us build a more transparent supply chain, and provides us with a repeatable annual process to collect data and understand what carbon reductions have been made. We have seen that just by asking companies to disclose, they start thinking about climate action.

But again, collaboration with others is key to accelerate action and drive change when it comes to suppliers.

Our biggest challenge here is to build scale. That’s why we work with other organisations, trade associations, NGOs and policy makers to do so. Working with others helps us spread the message on climate action much wider than if this was something we were doing on our own.

That’s why we founded the 1.5°C Supply Chain Leaders with the Exponential Roadmap Initiative together with Ericsson, Inter IKEA Group, Telia Company and Unilever, supported by the United Nations’ Race to Zero and the We Mean Business Coalition. Through this initiative we are sharing best  practice, leading by example and hoping to inspire others.

We work together to drive climate action throughout global supply chains, and support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through the SME Climate Hub, understanding the need to work with and support suppliers to halve emissions before 2030 and achieve net zero emissions before 2050.

There is still a lot more to do, and we need others to join us and we all need to collaborate. Together we have the opportunity to create a fairer, more resilient, low carbon society.

Written by Gabrielle Ginér, Head of environmental sustainability, BT Group

Gabrielle Ginér, Head of environmental sustainability at BT Group will be speaking on 19 January 2023 in:

16.50 – 17.35, Accelerating actions on Scope 3 indirect value chain emissions incl Q&A

See the timetable of the Ambassadors’ Day, 19 January 2023

If you would like to meet with Gabrielle and BT Group please register below.