Planning for Net Zero - Scope 1-3 (Guest Blog from BT)

Guest Blog narrating BT’s climate action journey, the carbon targets it has set, how the company plans to get to net zero, the challenges involved, why this is important, and lessons learned.

Our 30-year climate action journey

Acting on climate change has been on BTs agenda for thirty years, having set our first carbon reduction target in 1992. In 2008 we set our first science-based target to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of our business by 80% by 2020, and after meeting that target four years ahead of time, we decided to be even more ambitious.

In 2017, we were one of the first companies in the world to set a science-based target aligned to a 1.5-degree pathway. We set ourselves the ambitious task of reducing the carbon emissions of our operations by another 87% by end of the May 2031. Since November 2020 BT have used 100% renewable electricity worldwide and need to continue to do so.

In September 2021, we announced plans to accelerate our net zero plan, pledging net zero emissions for our own operations by 2030, and for our supply chain/customer emissions by 2040. To achieve this, we focussed on three areas: purchasing renewable electricity, decarbonising our estate, and decarbonising our fleet.

Scope 2 and Beyond

As with many companies in the telecoms industry, only a small percentage of BT’s end-to-end carbon emissions come from our own operations (5%). Around 71% comes from our upstream supply chain and 24% from customers using our products and services. It is clear to us that working with suppliers to reduce their carbon emissions is key if we want to reach our net zero targets.

To achieve supply chain visibility, we have worked with trade associations, NGOs, policy makers and other organisations. techUK, GSMA, 1.5 Supply Chain Leaders and the SME Climate Hub, as well as the UK Government, are essential in helping drive progress on scope 3 emissions.

As a result, we are involved in several initiatives focusing on reducing supply chain emissions. Firstly, we are using our purchasing power with 15% of our adjudication criteria being linked to environmental and human rights procurement standards. All suppliers undergo assessment with regards to sustainability before they are on-boarded.

Secondly, we ask suppliers with a contract value over £25m to have a net zero science-based target in place or agree to introduce one within six months, in addition to building a carbon reduction clause into key contracts. We encourage suppliers to switch to 100% renewable electricity, set net zero targets, engage with their suppliers and to disclose to CDP.

Finally, we drive innovation through our Game Changing Challenge competition on innovative solutions to environmental challenges. Collective climate action has helped us make progress faster, scale ambition and inspire others. Therefore, we joined forces with Openreach and the Climate Group in the summer of 2020 to launch the UK Electric Fleets Coalition. 30 companies are now part of the coalition, and they’re all advocating for the acceleration of electric vehicles in the UK and for the kind of supportive policies that will help speed up the transition, such as grants and availability of nationwide charging infrastructure.

Why are net zero targets so important?

Customers, policy makers, investors and key stakeholders are increasingly interested in our sustainability credentials. Positive climate action can influence sales, help to attract and retain talent, and offers positive brand associations. It’s also good for our bottom-line, as our energy efficiency programmes, we have saved about £358m since 2009/10. 

Targets also drive innovation, both with our suppliers who are incentivised to be more sustainable, and for BT’s product and service innovation. Innovative ICT products and services are key to enabling the low carbon economy. Our solutions help other sectors reduce their carbon emissions, for example, by reducing travel and being more efficient through smart solutions. We have a target to help our customers avoid 60m tonnes of carbon by 2030.

Being ambitious on climate action is becoming increasingly important and companies must take the lead with science-based targets. Climate change is real, happening around the world. We are witnessing more extreme weather events affecting our own businesses, for example flooding of our exchanges and warmer weather making our cooling bills for our data centres more costly. Abnormal weather events are also affecting our supply chains.

What we have learned

Targets drive performance. Measurement and monitoring are critical to understanding and driving change. Companies need to be transparent about their targets, how they are going to achieve them and what progress they are making. If we don’t share our challenges, we can’t collaborate to overcome them. Our hope is that more and more businesses, large and small, will join us on the net zero journey.


techUK - Committed to Climate Action

Digital transformation is critical to the decarbonisation journey of organisations in every sector. Across supply chains and sectors, industries are converging with tech partners to find innovations that reduce carbon emissions and unlock efficiencies that drive down energy use. techUK focuses on the application of emerging technologies and data-driven decision making in traditional forms of infrastructure to deliver innovative environmental outcomes. For more information on our Climate, Environment and Sustainability Programme, please visit our Climate Action Hub and click ‘contact us’.