Deutsche Telekom AG and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone (NTT) are both first in an independent Environmental-Rating of 16 telecommunication companies from eleven countries carried out by the Munich-based rating agency ökom. Both companies received the grade C+ and therefore stood out against the industry average of D+. Telekom Italia Mobile and the Dutch Royal KPN were the tail-lights, both receiving a D-. The Environmental-Rating is an environmental evaluation of stock-quoted companies on a twelve point scale ranging from A+ to D-.
Good Grades for Deutsche Telekom and NTT
The two companies received their high marks due to their exemplary achievements in the field of environmental protection. Both companies, for example, have taken the PVC controversy very seriously and have banished the synthetic substance from nearly all new products such as telephones, telephone boxes, telephone cards and interior cables. Plans for phasing out PVC totally are to be realized in the near future. BellSouth and Hongkong Telecom, on the other hand, insist on continuing to use PVC, quoting low material costs and durability.
Another strength of the Deutsche Telekom is its take-back guarantee for all new products ranging from telephones to telephone cards which is worldwide unique. It is surprising that the use of this special service continues to stagger. Despite special advertising campaigns, the return rate for telephone cards, for example, is only 0.12 percent. Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, on the other hand, is leading in the area of environmental data (e.g. energy and water consumption, volume of solid waste, all evaluated in relation to turnover).
The telecommunications industry generally likes to see itself as relatively green, emphasizing how its data transmission substitutes the transportation of people, thereby reducing the use of energy and thus pollution. While this fact is undisputed, the industry’s 'environmental account' is not balanced at all.
To start with, the telecommunications industry’s direct impacts on the environment are substantial. Deutsche Telekom’s transmission systems (fixed net and mobile services), for example, consume the same amount of energy as 400,000 German households in one year. Electromagnetic radiation is another serious issue which the industry is somewhat neglecting. Even though all of the surveyed companies adhere to the internationally accepted standards, there was not much evidence of coherent concepts to tackle this potential health risk.
Environmental Management Systems are Being Established
The industry’s efforts and activities in the field of environmental management systems are laudable. Nearly all of the examined companies have or plan to establish an environmental management system based on the international ISO 14001 standard. British Telecom, with its target to obtain certification for the entire company by March 1999, is leading in this area. Environmental management systems provide important incentives for companies to critically evaluate their environmental profile and to develop individual concepts. However, it will be a long way until all telecommunications companies will have integrated environmental protection into their normal business.
Four Black Sheep in the Environmental-Rating
The willingness to cooperate in the Environmental-Rating was average. 75 percent of the examined companies were open for an independent check of their environmental activities. France Télécom, Telefónica Group (Spain), Telekom Malaysia and Singapore Telekom, however, declined to cooperate in the Rating. They are now listed in ökom’s so-called 'Black List', which is available under the internet address http://www.oekom.de.
Participating companies in alphabetical order
AT&T Corp. (US), BellSouth Corp. (US), British Telecom (GB), Cable & Wireless (GB), Deutsche Telekom (DE), Hongkong Telecom (HK), Nippon Telegraph (JP), Royal KPN N.V. (NL), Telecom Italia (IT), Telecom Italia Mobile (IT), Tele Danmark (DK), Telstra Corp. (AU)
Telecommunications companies that refused to cooperate in the Environmental-Rating
France Télécom (FR), Singapore Telecom (SG), Telefónica Group (ES), Telekom Malaysia (MY)