Belong is the first carbon neutral-certified telco under Australia’s Climate Active program – here’s how it achieved that

Image: Facebook / Climate Active
This article is sponsored by Belong

From vegetarian diets to replacing shower heads, both individuals and major companies alike are conscious of ways they can lower their carbon footprint.

This includes electricity consumption – and we’re not just talking about switching the lights off when you leave the house or resisting going ham on the heater over winter. Internet and phone use are also contributors, and it goes without saying we’re all fiends for the stuff.

For example, Australia’s mobile data networks are estimated to create the same amount of CO2 emissions as someone flying between Melbourne and Sydney, more than 3 million times in a year.

Whether in isolation or not, we’re all perpetrators, but major change first starts with the big guys.

Aussie telco Belong, owned by Telstra but operating as a separate business, is Australia’s first certified carbon neutral telco under the Climate Active program — an ongoing partnership and initiative between the Australian Government and local businesses to collectively measure, reduce and offset carbon emissions. Telstra also announced it was certified carbon neutral in early July.

Organisations achieve carbon neutral status by taking action to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they put into it. For example, the carbon emissions associated with operating Belong’s mobile and internet services are offset by projects the company is investing in. Belong invests in Australian renewable energy projects, like Telstra’s Murra Warra Wind Farm (Victoria) and Emerald Solar Park (Queensland), as well as certified UN carbon offset projects.

Climate Active sets strict criteria which dictates the way Belong invests in projects and measures its carbon footprint. Belong also works to reduce emissions in its office.

“We continually look to improve energy efficiency in our office footprint through optimising HVAC equipment, installation of fresh air cooling systems, high efficiency chillers, electronically commutated fans and lighting upgrades,” Belong told Climate Active.

“In the office we have mobile handset recycle points where team members can dispose of old handsets knowing it’ll be recycled and not go to landfill. We also support and encourage team members who cycle, run or scoot to work by providing end-of-trip services such as showers and lockers.”

Additionally, Belong launched an app, dubbed Carbon Thumbprint, in June. It calculates mobile data network use – not wifi – through a series of questions, including how much time you spend on everything from social media to streaming. From there it translates your usage from megabytes of mobile data use, into grams of carbon, to give you your output in kilograms.

Carbon Thumbprint (rather than footprint) is described by Belong as “the C02 created by your mobile network data usage”. For context, mobile data networks in Australia are estimated to create more than half a million tonnes of C02 annually. Your usage and personal portion contributing to that is your Carbon Thumbprint.

Telstra, Belong’s parent company, announced in March this year that they will be cutting their emissions by half by 2030 and in early July announced they were certified carbon neutral. Keeping Australians connected to Telstra services requires around 5.9 petajoules of energy per year. In 2019, that resulted in almost 1.3 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

While telecommunications can help reduce the amount of carbon put into the atmosphere – like reducing the need for physical travel to meetings and modernising agricultural practices – they’re not without their own environmental impact.

In short? It’s nothing to sneeze at – and telco providers have a huge responsibility in fighting climate change.