Operators around the world are increasingly recognising sustainability as one of their key strategic priorities. Orange Group is one of the global pioneers in this field and has already made significant progress towards achieving its net zero targets. Ahead of Total Telecom Congress 2022, we caught up with Jacek Hutyra, Climate Officer of Orange Poland to hear more about the company’s green ambitions.

Can you tell us about your role at Orange Poland? 

I am Orange Poland’s climate officer. When appointed two years ago it was the first such position in Poland, and the first one within the entire Orange Group globally. This is because of a very specific challenge Orange is facing in Poland – it is a highly carbon-reliant country, in particular for electricity production. And electricity is a key greenhouse gas emission driver in the digital sector. Because of that Orange Poland is the no. 1 operation in terms of CO2 emissions within the Orange Group globally, representing over 1/3 of total Orange Scope 1+2 emissions worldwide. Achieving the climate goals of the Orange Group is in fact dependent on what will or will not happen in this area in our Polish subsidiary.

This is why in 2020 we decided to try out this new approach – a light, transversal animation of the entire organisation with the aim of catalysing and accelerating our way to 2025 climate goals (-65% own emissions vs. 2015) and net zero for 2040 (for all emissions including the entire scope 3). We are convinced that the responsibility to deliver the climate goals must be with the business – network, marketing and sales, purchasing, real estate and others – because only this way they will be truly embedded in our strategy and daily operation.

What does it mean to be a modern telco according to Orange Poland?

There is obviously the tech part of striving to deliver the best solutions to serve our customers and the communities they are part of. But we are convinced, and this conviction has been growing for a few years already, that being “modern” means also being part of what is important for the society at large. You can call it CSR or ESG or responsibility – what is key for us is to make sure that we get our business in sync with the key environmental and social challenges and transformations of today and tomorrow. Within a few years, any business without real, drastic reductions of its climate impact will not have any credibility to sell its services, will have a hard time to find financing, and so on. So there’s a clear risk of lagging behind in real climate action – it’s about the values and the impact that we want to have, but it’s also a question of long-term business survival. Being ahead of the pack in this area is also a potential source of business opportunities – if we have the credibility proved with tangible results in terms of reducing emissions, we can go out there and look for new revenue streams, develop new services, think about what business value we can generate. One example: thanks to an in-depth transformation of our energy structure we started in 2020, we are now able to market Poland’s (and Orange Group’s) first climate neutral telco service. And this neutrality is based on real, publicly announced emission reduction thanks to energy sources and operational changes in how the services is delivered.

As the Climate Officer for Orange Poland, what is the key challenge you are facing right now? 

We are very well advanced in terms on our 2025 emission reduction goals. We had an ambitious goal of at least 60% of energy coming from new, long-term renewable sources (starting with 0% in 2020), and at least -65% reduction of own emissions (i.e., Scopes 1+2 of the GHG Protocol) in comparison to 2015. Thanks to the efforts of our teams – and Purchasing and Network in particular – who have been working both on optimising the energy consumption volumes and signing consecutive long-term renewable energy contracts (the so-called Power Purchase Agreement or PPAs), we are confident that we will deliver these goals. This means that the most important challenge seems to be quite under control – and we can focus on another big topic from climate perspective: the scope 3 emissions. These category of emissions regroups all value chain emissions linked with our activities – be it the climate impact of the devices produced by suppliers, the emissions from energy use by our customers or our employees’ commuting, to quote the three among our biggest priorities in Poland. Orange Group has a goal to reduce this very wide and complex “bucket” of all sorts of emissions by at least -14% by 2025 in comparison to 2018. This is quite a challenge, especially because of the very many actors in this wide scope. Part of this challenge is looking into the life cycles of the devices used by our customers: how to increase the sales of refurbished smartphones, how to source back in the old phones wilting away in our customers’ drawers so that the resources locked in them can be reused, or how to extend the average life of a smartphone – and how to respond to the obvious, strategic challenge that selling new smartphones is still an important revenue line for a telco operator.

You will be joining a panel on the telco’s journey to net-zero as well as performing a presentation on the subject. What do you believe telcos must do to achieve ambitious net-zero targets? Is the industry prepared for this?

First of all, they need to clearly state their net zero goal – and explain how they intend to get there, with clear action plan for the coming years. Still not all the operators on all the markets have done that – or it’s unclear how they intend to bridge the gap between today and a 2040 or 2050 net zero goal.

Then, a certain leap of faith in terms of communication is necessary – and starting to regularly show externally what ambitions and actions are planned, and what their current, measurable status is. Yes, it could be considered a risk – but it’s also highly motivating internally. We promised, we committed to regularly showing the results – so we’ve got to make sure we deliver! As for industry being prepared for it – we often say the digital is at the forefront of innovation, that the tech is at the service of the humanity or the green and digital transformation. There is no real excuse anymore to try to find a “way out” from committing to real climate action and making sure these promises turn into reality. If an industry that wants to be modern, relevant, sustainable and future-proof cannot deliver its contribution to tackling the biggest crisis in human history, who else can?

What are you looking forward to at Total Telecom Congress next month? 

I’m very keen to see what the current trends and approaches are to integrating climate challenges with the core business of operators. We all know there’s no escaping from huge emission reductions that require quite some transformation: but how are different players trying to find opportunities from this necessity?

Jacek will be joining a panel on “The telco’s road to net zero” at Total Telecom Congress 2022 in London on 1st November. For more details on how to join Jacek and 1,000 senior leaders from the global telecoms industry, head to the event website.