Orange Poland’s Jacek Hutyra, Climate Office, discusses the challenge of meeting Orange Group’s sustainability goals while operating in a country that still relies heavily on coal-produced power.
My sustainability story: Why Orange Poland is at the coalface of change
Our goal at Orange Poland is the same as the rest of Orange Group – to achieve net zero carbon by 2040 for both our own emissions (scopes 1+2) and those of our value chain (scope 3).
However, in Poland we face a particular challenge. The country is highly dependent on coal to produce more than 70% of its electricity, and it means Orange Poland is responsible for a third of Orange Group’s global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
As part of Orange Group’s Engage 2025 strategy in Poland we are focusing on reducing our emissions from fuels, GHG leaks from systems and – above all – energy use by 65% compared to 2015. At the end of 2021 we had achieved a 27% reduction and this trend is accelerating.
By 2025 we will source at least 60% of our electricity from renewable sources, having started out at zero in 2020 and risen to 6% in 2021, and we expect to exceed 10% this year. This complements our long-running Energy Optimization Program that allowed us to reduce emissions by around 15% between 2015 and 2020.
We have also started to work on our value chain emissions, in particular by spurring circular economy in our network equipment and customer devices and our Group’s 2025 goal is to cut scope 3 emissions by at least 14% compared to 2018.
There are a few. European regulations and ambitions and in particular the European commission’s Fit For 55, are important in helping push all companies in the same direction.
But external players such as investors and consumers, and in particular youth activists, are also key to increasing public awareness about climate matters in Poland – even if it is still growing too slowly. This is translating into a budding interest in using or buying services and products that are either less harmful for the environment or which proactively help customers in reducing their use of energy and other resources as well as greenhouse emissions.
Similarly, we are also starting to see more climate-related requirements from international investors, shareholders and large customers, including local actors, which is helping us push our sustainability actions and goals forward.
As I mentioned earlier, Poland is still very much reliant on coal for its electricity and there is no clear national climate neutrality goal or roadmap to help businesses, or the wider population to take any decisive action.
There is also a need for a nation-wide systemic transformation of the electricity grid and more intra-European cooperation to get to a 100% renewable electricity system.
Transformation is also hindered by strict national regulatory constraints in Poland, which are greatly limiting the development of renewable energy sources in the country. As an example, laws hamper the construction of any new onshore windfarm. The launch of the country’s first offshore windfarms has also seen delays and is currently expected only in 2026.
And although public awareness of climate issues in Poland is growing, it is still very low. A lack of climate education means consumers have a poor understanding of the key causes of climate change and the impact of their everyday choices and consumption habits.
Even though public awareness needs to grow, we have seen increasing interest in services and products that are either less harmful for the environment or proactively help customers reduce their energy consumption or their greenhouse emissions.
This inspired us to re-launch our Orange Flex offer – Poland’s and Orange Group’s first climate neutral telco service. Flex’s electricity use is 100% renewable and is drawn from two windfarms that were built for Orange Poland’s needs in mid-2021. We also take an innovative no-paper, all-digital approach to subscription and billing, promoting the use of e-sim and other process and service measures. A final unavoidable ~3% of emissions are compensated with Gold Standard certified reforestation projects. While still relatively small, Flex’s customer base has been steadily growing since re-launch and has more than doubled to over 200,000 customers.
In addition, we launched a nation-wide B2C and B2B offer of photovoltaic systems allowing customers to become energy producers, greatly reducing their electricity bills and CO2 emissions – after including the lifecycle impact of PV equipment, a unit of solar energy in Poland emits up to times less CO2 than a unit of grid electricity. Initial customer growth and revenues are promising and the current energy pricing crisis is triggering additional interest in this offer.
We are also developing an IoT-based Smart City portfolio of services to improve the energy efficiency of municipal services, for example through the use of smart metering, energy controllers, urban bike systems. Our client portfolio for this service has now grown to over 80 cities and towns across Poland, despite insufficient support from municipalities and the low public awareness of the climate crisis.
Every employee has to complete a dedicated in-house e-training on climate change and action as part of their training by the end of 2022. So far four thousand people have completed it.
We also put in place an intensive education program for employees and managers identified as key in helping address our climate challenges. The first group of 20 completed a post-graduate year-long program developed with an external university in May 2022. In addition, managers’ bonuses are linked to achieving short- (six-month) and mid-term (2022-24) emission reduction goals that are aligned with our 2025 strategy.
Finally, we hold regular information and educational campaigns for all staff, including webinars with inspiring external guests, updates on climate action and gamification.
When it comes to suppliers, we have added climate criteria to our purchasing processes and selection procedures, with a focus on emission reduction and we are also exploring improvements to the environmental design of the products we buy.
In addition, we are progressively reinforcing circular economy principles in our offer for B2C and B2B customers through refurbished phones, buyback and collection of used phones, repair services… through the “Re Programme” launched in Poland in April 2022. Moreover, we collect and refurbish over half a million home devices (modems, TV set-top boxes) per year and today, approximately 60% of such devices come from our refurbishment program. We are also providing external education and awareness through our hub.
We initiated and co-produced Poland’s first industry climate declaration which was adopted and announced in April 2022 by the Polish Chamber of IT and Telecommunications. It strongly recommends that ICT actors in Poland set tangible net zero carbon goals with clear, measurable interim objectives, and calls for industry-wide cooperation and transparent communication to accelerate the green and digital transformation of the Polish economy.
We are also actively participating in a variety of initiatives, including the Climate Leadership by GRID Warsaw / UN Environment Program, Climate+ Initiative by UN Global Compact Network Poland, and the World Urban Forum Business Council to raise climate awareness to businesses in the country, sharing good practices across the industry and cross-industry bodies at events and conferences.
As a result of our actions, Orange Poland’s climate strategy was ranked as the country’s third best (and the top in the digital sector) in an independent benchmark in November 2021 by GoResponsible CSR experts and GRID Warsaw/ UNEP.
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