How Green Are Mobile Phone Companies? IDC Research Explores

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Earlier in March, IDC's Stephen Drake released some research on the sustainability of mobile operators - Worldwide Mobile Operator 2010 Vendor Profiles: A Green Analysis--An Evaluation of 10 Key Mobile Operators' Mobile Phone Sustainability Efforts (IDC #226277). Drake made an interesting note -- that operators generally don't produce mobile phones, but they are certainly instrumental in driving the sustainability behavior of those companies that do.

According to his research, mobile operators are investing in and increasing their efforts around green handset sourcing, energy usage, end-of-life programs, and packaging.

This sustainability pressure is something we see very often here in the United States -- where the value chain captain or supply chain master drives or sustainability, often before end consumer demand sustainability change. (For more on this topic, see the presentation I have at our IDC Directions conferences with references to the influences from Walmart and P&G).

I've summarized some of Drake's findings, and you can read more in his blog as well as in the report.

IDC's mobile operators' green ranking is based on an analysis of the handset sustainability efforts of mobile operators across the globe. The criteria focused on mobile operators' overall sustainable handset strategy, packaging, materials, energy, and end-of-life programs for mobile devices.

As a result of this analysis, IDC has identified the top green mobile operators (listed in alphabetical order) -- AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, Telefónica, and Vodafone. Highlights of the top vendors' mobile device sustainability efforts include the following:

  • AT&T -- AT&T is introducing sustainability elements to the entire device portfolio.
  • Deutsche Telekom -- Deutsche Telekom works with its suppliers to minimize the negative ecological and social effects resulting from the extraction of raw materials, such as those used in the manufacture of mobile phones.
  • Sprint -- Sprint Nextel has focused more on bringing specific sustainable handsets to market, starting with the August 2009 introduction of the Samsung Reclaim.
  • Telefónica -- In the summer of 2010, Telefónica's O2 division partnered with Forum for the Future to develop the United Kingdom's first "eco rating" for handsets in its portfolio.
  • Vodafone -- Vodafone is working with suppliers and partners, as well as moving ahead with efforts to ensure minerals used in the production of devices are not sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
  • I'm going to take a closer look at Drake's research and figure out what this means for manufacturers all along the value chain. But I expect I'll find the same thing I find for those manufacturers and suppliers in Walmart and P&G's value chains -- how companies use IT applications in their current IT portfolio is changing, and these same companies are investing in new more sustainability-focused applications as well.

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