Personal Sustainability Demands Global Solutions

Personal Sustainability Demands Global Solutions

Monday, April 21, 2014 - 9:05am


By Roman Smith, Director of Sustainability Operations

If you ask one of my C&S colleagues what keeps me busy, they might tell you I’m a bit of an international man of mystery—or so I might like to think. When walking past my office, you never know what international accent you might hear coming from the other end of the conference call line. My passport had a few additions recently, with stamps from Spain, Norway, Italy and the U.K. I’ve always had a finely developed sense of wanderlust. Impactful sustainability issues that need global solutions have allowed me to continue to refine that desire to explore.

In the five years since I’ve joined AT&T’s Sustainability team, I’ve focused my time on initiating impactful priorities for both the company and society at large. While we at AT&T are focused on ensuring that we provide best-in-class service and a stellar network here at home, the products we sell have global implications. So we work with suppliers, other carriers and industry organizations to address those issues with the goal of inspiring change in our suppliers and customers alike.

One project that gives me the most pride is the development of the AT&T Eco-Rating system. This system, which rates devices based on their sustainable attributes like energy efficiency and end-of-life treatment, empowers our customers to make sustainable purchasing decisions with AT&T.

When we first launched the system in 2012, the average Eco-Rating for our portfolio of handset devices was 3 stars on a 1-5 Star Eco-Rating scale. Today, our portfolio is at nearly 4 Eco-Rating stars, with 95 percent of our phones receiving a score of three or higher. Our customers demand and expect to see the eco-rating of our products, and our suppliers are taking note.

We haven’t stopped there. In 2012, we launched the AT&T Eco-Rating system for all post-paid AT&T branded handsets. In 2013, we expanded that system to include pre-paid AT&T branded handsets and also became the first global provider to develop and launch a ratings system for select power accessories. This year, we will launch a refresh of our 2012 system to reflect our present-day supply chain practices, raise the bar for manufacturers and remain current with existing sustainable design criteria. Additionally, our 2014 Eco-Rating system will be applied to all AT&T-branded tablets. That’s another first for AT&T: we will be the first global carrier to develop and launch a system for tablets.

Our work on this key issue has not gone unnoticed on the world stage. It was with great pride that I represented AT&T – the only US carrier participating– in the International Telecommunications Union’s global roundtable on consumer eco-ratings. Realizing the importance of this issue and the impact our products have on the world around us, the world’s leading manufacturers, operators and sustainability stakeholders have come together to develop a globally-aligned eco-rating system for mobile devices.

As you can imagine, these talks are just the first of many. But I was heartened to join the voices of Apple, Alcatel-Lucent, Blackberry, Fujitsu, Huawei, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Orange, KPN, Telefonica, Vodafona and the industry organization GSMA. It is my hope that our working group will be able to provide a recommendation to the industry later this summer that will give consumers an accessible and credible rating system that will be the same for a mobile device purchased in Dallas, Paris or Tokyo.