Planting trees helps to capture carbon, create natural forest restoration, provide oxygen and enhance wildlife habitat for generations to come. For TELUS, tree-planting initiatives in Oak River, Manitoba, and the Yunesit’in First Nation territory, B.C., achieved all this and more – they offset the amount of paper the telecommunications company used in 2018 and 2019.
“Our Trees for Paper program, a partnership with Tree Canada, is an example of our efforts to reduce our environmental impact and advance sustainability,” says Geoff Pegg, director of sustainability, utilities and energy management with TELUS. He adds that, since 2000, TELUS team members and retirees have contributed more than $20-million to charities and community organizations that support the environment.
This long-standing commitment is founded on TELUS’s belief that doing well in business and doing good in the community go hand in hand. Guided by the giving philosophy – “We give where we live” – TELUS is committed to driving positive social outcomes and helping to ensure stronger and healthier communities, including a strong focus on caring for the environment.
The tree-planting initiative followed company-wide engagement to cut paper and packaging consumption at TELUS through measures such as e-billing, digital marketing and reduced packaging. As a result, TELUS has reduced the annual sheet use per employee from over 1,500 to just 275 over the last decade. “We achieved our goal of a 10 per cent paper-use reduction every year, and in 2019, we reduced our paper and packaging consumption by 36 per cent,” says Mr. Pegg.
Using less paper and planting trees are part of TELUS’s comprehensive approach to take action on climate change and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The organization initiated its first set of long-term energy and GHG emission reduction goals in 2011 and surpassed them in early 2019, ahead of the 2020 target. This success inspired TELUS to set new transformational targets.
Committing to carbon neutrality is part of a growing global narrative to reduce human impacts on climate change – one of the greatest systemic risks of our future.— Geoff Pegg, Director of Sustainability, Utilities and Energy Management with TELUS
“Our leadership in social capitalism is driven by our team’s ability to put our customers and communities first, earning unparalleled client loyalty and fuelling our industry-leading results,” says Darren Entwistle, CEO at TELUS. “Having surpassed our 2020 goals in energy and greenhouse gas reduction in 2019, we will focus on procuring 100 per cent of our electricity requirements from renewable sources by 2025, enabling our operations to be net carbon neutral by 2030 and attaining a 50 per cent improvement in energy efficiency over 2020 levels by 2030.”
In order to realize such ambitious goals, environmental sustainability has to be considered in all decision-making and strategic planning, says Mr. Pegg. This organization-wide approach is evident in energy reduction efforts at TELUS, which include measures like lighting retrofits, replacing older HVAC equipment, and updating or retiring obsolete networks and systems. An ongoing network optimization program, for example, has already resulted in avoiding an estimated 7,000 tonnes of GHG emissions through energy reduction.
“We also made a significant foray into renewable energy purchases, particularly in Alberta, where the electricity grid is still 40 per cent coal fired,” says Mr. Pegg, who adds that further environmental performance improvements come from “enacting real estate efficiencies.”
An example demonstrating continued strategic investments in green buildings is TELUS Sky in downtown Calgary. “It comes with a number of features, including energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and a focus on wellness, fresh air and natural light,” he says.
Environmental sustainability is one of the pillars of TELUS’s commitment to a greater social purpose – to create stronger and healthier communities. By advancing environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance parameters – where progress depends on developing and implementing effective strategies, assessing and managing risks (including climate-related risks), setting targets and objectives, and reporting on the performance – the company believes it is achieving this.
“First and foremost, we have to ensure we walk the talk. Secondly, we want to build capacity for the things we believe in, such as addressing climate change,” says Mr. Pegg. “By improving our environmental performance, our business, our partners – and ultimately our customers – all benefit. It also helps us gain a competitive advantage for attracting customers, employees and investors.”
Mr. Pegg has learned that the top three investor queries for TELUS leadership relate to regulatory issues, competitors and ESG metrics. “These are key concerns for investors – and this feedback helps to inform our strategy. It validates our focus on ESG issues and the environment,” he says. “From meetings with stakeholders, we know that they like what they see.”
TELUS’s environmental sustainability performance also attracted the attention of Gavin Pitchford, CEO of Delta Management Group and executive director of Canada’s Clean50 Awards, an initiative that recognizes Canada’s leaders in sustainability and honoured Mr. Pegg’s achievements in 2018.
“TELUS is by a significant margin the greenest telecommunications company in Canada,” says Mr. Pitchford. “We know that customers – and especially millennials – who are rightfully very concerned about environmental sustainability and social issues, increasingly want to support businesses that are aligned with their values. That’s why carbon disclosure and ESG disclosures can help customers make better decisions – they can then vote with their wallets.”
Surveys of new hires and team members at TELUS also confirm that employees value the commitment to advancing sustainability, “so there are benefits in terms of talent recruitment and retention,” states Mr. Pegg, who hopes that TELUS’s example can serve to inspire others.
“We are dedicated to raising awareness and building capacity not only in the industry but also in corporate Canada,” he says. “Committing to carbon neutrality is part of a growing global narrative to reduce human impacts on climate change – one of the greatest systemic risks of our future.”
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in it’s creation.