Vodacom’s pledge to reduce its environmental impact by half by 2025 is well underway, with a target set to accelerate greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions reduction. Vodacom intends to diversify its energy mix over the next three years, including purchasing electricity from renewable energy sources.
This aim will have a significant influence on Vodacom’s pledge, given energy usage is the largest source of GHG emissions for the TechCo. Furthermore, by implementing this aim, Vodacom will contribute to a national transition to a low-carbon economy, assisting the government in meeting its Paris Agreement goal of reducing GHG emissions to keep global temperatures at 1.5°C or 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
“While we honour our purpose to connect the next 100 million people in Africa for a better future, we do believe implementing this should not come at a cost to the environment,” notes Takalani Netshitenzhe, External Affairs Director for Vodacom South Africa. “Our new target for energy consumption is one of the many ways we’re tackling our own environmental impact, because we understand that South Africa can only transition into a sustainable, climate-resilient, low-emission economy if everyone plays their part.”
Helping government achieve a Just Transition
The Presidential Climate Commission emphasizes the importance of transitioning to a low-emission economy that can sustainably support both people and the planet (PCC). President Cyril Ramaphosa established this multi-stakeholder council in 2020 with the goal of exploring ways to address climate change in a way that ensures sustainable futures for all South Africans. “This is particularly important for workers in industries most affected by global warming, such as energy, construction, mining and farming,” notes Netshitenzhe. “As we transition to a low carbon economy we also have a responsibility not to leave anybody behind.”
As such, climate change must be viewed through the lens of socio-economic structures. This is at the heart of a “Just Transition”, which is a plan for gradually moving into a low-carbon economy in a way that “provides greater job security for all workers affected by global warming and climate-change policies.” This Just Transition doesn’t rest solely in government’s hands – it necessitates collaboration of social partners – government, civil society, business and employees.
The PCC is developing a Just Transition framework that calls for such collaboration, which is being encouraged through events such as the Just Transition Multi-Stakeholder Conference, which will be held on May 5 and 6 at the Vodacom Conference Centre in Midrand. As a supporter of the PCC’s objectives, Vodacom is a conference sponsor, with Netshitenzhe and Pavesh Govender, Managing Executive for IoT at Vodacom Business, participating in the Just Transition sessions.
Vodacom’s commitment unpacked
Vodacom’s revised energy consumption target will see sustained investments in energy-efficient solutions such as solar-powered sites, of which the company now has 1088 across its market. Furthermore, there will be a sustained emphasis on obtaining renewable energy through innovative Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with Independent Power Producers. Vodacom sourced 1 183 898kWh of energy through such PPAs in the previous fiscal year, allowing the TechCo to save 11 971MWh of electricity while cutting its GHG emissions by 12 272mtCO2e.
Furthermore, Vodacom’s own Internet of Things (IoT) solutions have bolstered its energy-saving efforts. Through subsidiary IoT.nxt, Vodacom deployed IoT-based controls to over 7 232 of its base stations in South Africa, resulting in a 2.8% decrease in energy consumption in the last financial year. Vodacom has also leveraged such technologies across various sectors from agriculture to healthcare, enabling workers to provide their services more sustainably, and proactively – data from smart sensors can be used for predictive modelling to help farmers work around climate change by understanding weather patterns and irrigation needs, for example.
Sharing how technologies like the IoT can be leveraged to protect against climate change will be part of Vodacom’s contribution at the upcoming conference. “We are honoured to be afforded an opportunity to take lessons from climate change experts and also to contribute our insights on the all-important matter of a Just Transition, bringing the unique perspective of a TechCo experienced in sustainable digital transformation to the table,” says Netshitenzhe.