Carbon and energy

Finding new ways to do more with less

Carbon footprint

Reducing our carbon footprint makes sound environmental and economic sense. We’re working hard to reduce it, focusing on improving energy efficiency throughout our network, our offices, contact centres and retail stores. We’ve also made sure that 100% of the electricity we buy comes from renewable sources.

In 2013/14, our total carbon footprint from energy use was 200 tonnes, compared with 178 for 2012/13. The increase is mainly due to improvements to our network of base stations across the UK and the rollout of 4G services. We’ve also increased the number of office locations we have since we joined forces with the former Cable & Wireless Worldwide.

During 2014, we signed an agreement with EnergieKontor. With our support, EnergieKontor plans to build a small wind farm in Northamptonshire. When it opens in 2015, we intend to buy all the energy it produces over the next 15 years. We estimate that it will produce enough energy so supply power to 5% of our electricity demand in the UK. We are working on similar agreements to support investment in renewable energy generation in the UK and purchase more of our electricity from new renewable sources.

Saving energy where we can

Network efficiency

Most of the energy we use goes to run the network - around 86 % of our total usage. We work with suppliers to find the most efficient components for new base stations and to replace less efficient equipment in existing base stations.

We aim to install automated meter reading (AMR) equipment at all our main sites – that’s more than 8,000 radio base stations and 400 other sites (including retail stores) – by the end of 2014. So far, we have installed meters at more than 7,200 radio base stations (86%) and in 210 of our stores (63%), and all of our main buildings where electricity is not supplied by the landlord.

For our radio base stations to work properly, they must be kept cool. Air conditioning needs a lot of energy so we have been actively deploying alternatives. Direct air cooling uses small fans to carry heat away from the base station cabin, and requires 90% less energy than traditional air conditioning. We’ve fitted direct air cooling systems to more than 3,000 of our radio base station cabins so far. As we update our remaining base stations, we’ll include new direct air cooling technology. Other old equipment will be replaced too. We expect an average energy saving of 23%.

We’ve invested heavily in sub-metering across 44 of our largest data centres and technical buildings . and are actively monitoring and targeting energy efficiency opportunities, many of which are being implemented and could save us up to 10% of the energy consumed by these sites.

Offices and stores

Our offices (including our contact centres) and our retail stores make up around 13 % of our total energy use. We have 30 core office buildings and 382 retail stores across the UK (as at 1 September 2014).

We save energy in our offices and stores by setting lighting, heating and ventilation to run only when buildings are occupied. We use movement sensors in corridors, meeting rooms and washrooms so lights aren’t left on unnecessarily.

We monitor electricity usage across our stores and other buildings using automatic metering and billing records. This activity helps us identify and tackle any sites that have higher than expected consumption; we can take measures such as adjusting heating and lighting controls, replacing inefficient building services and helping our employees to take ownership of energy use.

Some customers prefer to use their own bags but if we need to offer one, the bags we use are made from light polythene. They’re about 80 % thinner than the old versions. This means less energy is needed to produce them, and they use less pallet space so there’s less demand on transport. The resin they are made with helps them degrade more quickly than previous bags and they are fully recyclable.

State-of-the-art contact centre in Stoke-on-Trent

Our UK contact centre in Stoke-on-Trent was designed with the environment in mind. It was built along a north-south axis and features:

  • Roof overhangs for solar shading
  • Full-length window strips to maximise natural light
  • A curved roof for rainwater harvesting
  • Recycled filing cabinets and reused PCs
  • Shared printing facilities to avoid unnecessary paper use

Employee travel

We encourage employees to work flexibly and remotely, and provide them with the communications technology they need to do so – this is at the heart of our Better Ways of Working strategy. Employees can communicate with each other through voice, video, instant messaging or web conferencing simply by clicking their colleague’s name on their PC. We have also invested £600,000 in video conferencing facilities to reduce the need for employees to travel for face-to-face meetings.

Our travel by road and air increased last year – which is due to the integration of the former Cable & Wireless Worldwide with Vodafone. It is essential that we travel by air in some instances – for example when we are visiting outsourced operations or our colleagues in international Vodafone operating companies.

At our Newbury HQ and Bracknell offices we provide free shuttle buses between the campus, the town, and the train station. We encourage car sharing (car sharers get priority for parking) and provide showers and lockers for cyclists across our office estate. Employees across the UK in our stores and offices can get interest-free loans for season tickets, bicycles.