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Nicki Lyons
Chief Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Officer, Vodafone UK

3 minute read


Why circular thinking is good news for competitiveness as well as sustainability


Find out how circularity can help businesses achieve advantages and move quicker to net zero.

It’s no surprise that businesses and their customers are thinking more about the environmental impact of their choices. At Vodafone, we know our customers look to us to help them make decisions that are environmentally, as well as commercially responsible and I’m proud of the work we’re doing in this space.

Circularity sits at the heart of our sustainability strategy. We’ve thought long and hard about how to make the technology we offer last longer and extend its useful life beyond its primary purpose.

The longer IT infrastructure and devices are used for, the lower their environmental impact. For example, we offer our business customers a device lifecycle management service, meaning they can lease their hardware and when they return it, we’ll securely data wipe the device and either reuse or recycle it.

What works about the circular approach is that it’s a genuine win-win. It allows businesses to achieve tangible commercial and operational advantages, and, at the same time, accelerate their journey to net zero.

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Power up sustainability

For Vodafone, the circular economy conversation starts with what the customer wants to achieve, going on to explore how we can help them progress on their sustainability journey. That could mean adjusting their device strategy to include purchasing refurbished devices, or helping them use their devices for longer to reduce e-waste, as well as providing a commitment to responsibly recycle devices once they reach end-of-life.

We’re supporting organisations with ambitious initiatives inspired by sustainability and circularity. For example, we’re partnering with a large UK police force on their digital transformation journey as they modernise their devices to support more flexible and productive working. We’re putting the huge number of laptops, phones and tablets they no longer need to good use via the Great British Tech Appeal that provides connected devices to vulnerable individuals and families, devices that could have been disposed of without the circular way of thinking front of mind.

“The longer IT infrastructure and devices are used for, the lower their environmental impact.”

Nicki Lyons, Chief Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Officer, Vodafone UK

Circular infrastructure strategies

Another area where we’re seeing businesses reap the rewards of a circular approach is the IT network. Companies are rising to the challenge of digital working, but without detrimental impact to the environment.

Think about reusing older network hardware responsibly – either in other markets, passed back to the manufacturer, or (in a small number of cases) dismantled for component recycling.

At Vodafone we operate an internal network equipment marketplace to trade used network equipment with other operating companies in our global footprint, ensuring these are used until they’re no longer useful. We already reuse, resell or recycle 96% of our waste network equipment.

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We’re all in this together

Most of us agree that tackling climate change needs everyone to pull together. That’s exactly the spirit in which we approach the circular economy.

When we join forces with customers, we focus on how we can work with them to achieve mutually rewarding outcomes. This is especially important when it comes to Scope 3 emissions generated indirectly by a company’s value chain.

We’re committed to hitting net zero for our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2027, and we represent a responsible and sustainable partner for our customers, offering a means for them to start reducing their own Scope 3 emissions.

In fact, we’re designing some carbon calculators for our most popular services for business customers, to help them more accurately understand the carbon footprint of what they’re buying from us. This is key to working together and reducing all of our emissions.

Scope for success

Once again, this illustrates how sustainability and circularity represent opportunities for competitive advantage.

The 2027 net zero target I’ve mentioned has been instrumental in working with new organisations, especially when it comes to the public sector. We’re being evaluated not only for our aspirations but also our targets and how we’re achieving them.

This is helping us work with new organisations and boost revenues. I use this example not to trumpet Vodafone’s achievements, but to underline the competitive advantages that come with running a more sustainable business.

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Squaring the sustainability circle

Every company wants to grow and compete, but not at a cost to the environment or at a financial cost to their customers. That’s why I’m such a passionate advocate for the circular economy: it’s a way for large businesses to behave in the right way, while meeting their commercial and shareholder objectives.

For me, a circular approach is the best kind of sustainability. It’s a way of thinking that helps businesses to save costs, spur innovation and face the future with confidence – as well as making a measurable impact on their journey to net zero.

Learn more about how Vodafone is supporting sustainability in everything we do.

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