Tackling climate change and supporting a circular economy are the ways we can make the biggest difference to the environment as a business. But we’re also careful to manage our other environmental impacts – from reducing waste and water use to tackling air pollution, nurturing biodiversity and preventing fuel leaks.

To drive progress, we have a group-wide environmental policy and environmental management system (EMS) – certificated to ISO 14001:2015 in ten countries. And we encourage colleagues worldwide to help us manage impacts by changing their behaviour, from recycling more to choosing our audio, video and web conferencing services over business travel.

  • In the UK, where most of our operations are, we recycle or recover almost all our waste. We produced around 40.5 Ktonnes of waste this year worldwide (27% more than last year). 96% (99.5% in the UK) of this was recovered or recycled. The waste generated by our business increased for the second year in succession as a result of our network investments, disposal of legacy equipment and buildings rationalisation. Specialist contractors deal with the hazardous waste we produce, in line with regulations, and we’re developing an app to track this waste.

  • We’re increasingly using water in our adiabatic systems to cool equipment at our facilities as we work to reduce our climate impact by replacing older systems that run on greenhouse gases. The downside is that our water use is going up. It increased 5% last year and rose by a further 14% this year to 2.2 million m3.

    We’re taking control of our water supply to help address this challenge. In 2018/19, we gained a licence as a water self-supplier in England. This means we now buy direct from a single water wholesalers, instead of multiple retailers. Not only does this protect us against future price increases by buying wholesale, it also gives us better data and insight into how much water we’re using where. This will help us to better manage our water use, and spot and fix leaks. 

  • Air quality can make a big difference to the health of our colleagues and communities. We’re working to transition to electric vehicles so our fleet generates fewer carbon emissions and this will also reduce local air pollutants from diesel engines.

    We’re also using IoT solutions to help customers identify and address air pollution hotspots. For example, we’re working with local councils in Bradford and Birmingham, where we’ve added air quality sensors to InLink street kiosks. The sensors take measurements every minute that are shared with the councils in real time to support effective action to improve air quality. Similarly, we support Swansea Council by using sensors at CCTV sites to generate data. 

  • We recognise the growing global importance of biodiverse ecosystems. We’re committed to minimising any negative impact from our business and we continue to monitor wildlife-related incidents or risks in our grounds. The natural environment aspect of our EMS helps us manage these impacts, and we’re developing a new policy on waste and natural resources. 

  • When there’s a power cut, and in some remote locations, we keep our customers connected by using generators to run our telephone exchanges, data centres and mobile base stations. These generators use diesel and BT has more than 6,500 oil storage tanks across the UK, largely to fuel this essential equipment, and we carefully manage the risks of oil spills or leaks from these tanks.