Saturday, May 18, 2024

Championing Africa’s sustainable future through innovation and exemplary e-waste management

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Climate change is currently the most pressing global issue due to its devastating effects on all aspects of human life. Health and wellbeing, wildlife, agriculture, ecosystems, and energy are all at risk of being affected by this global challenge.

There is, therefore, an urgent need for a radical shift; one that will help us reduce the impact of climate change. While setting global targets and measuring progress at the United Nations’ annual Climate Conference of the Parties (COP), and the Biodiversity Conference are indeed great steps, it will take the concerted efforts of the private sector and governments, as well as advanced sustainable innovations, to shift the needle.

At Ericsson, we believe that Information Communications Technology (ICT) is a critical piece in this process and has a role to play in helping sub-Saharan Africa achieve its climate targets. Our research on ICT’s potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 revealed that ICT solutions have a high potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15 percent.

We are keenly pursuing our ambition to reduce global warming by achieving a Net Zero emission status across our value chain by 2040. We have made steady progress, and we are confident that we will hit our first major milestone of cutting emissions by 50% in the supply chain and portfolio by 2030.

Ericsson strives to develop, sell and deliver hardware, software, services and solutions with excellent sustainability performance and contributes to the sustainable development of society. Our Enterprise offerings support other industrial sectors, such as energy, manufacturing, and transportation, in their transition towards a low-carbon economy.

We are also leading with technological innovations that will help reduce network energy usage. These include solutions that allow operator networks to use as little energy as possible while handling the expected growth in data traffic and meeting the needs of both current and future 5G networks.

As we move toward 2025, Ericsson believes it is possible to scale up 5G, while simultaneously aiming to break the rising energy consumption curve. We have streamlined our approach into three core elements; plan differently with a focus on a sustainable network evolution; deploy differently by effectively modernizing the existing network when scaling 5G; and operate differently by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and automation.

Our sustainability drive is backed by a strategy that ensures we take pragmatic steps to dispose of e-waste responsibly. Equipment from the technology and telecommunications industries, in the end, becomes e-waste and contributes to global climate issues. If not properly disposed of, components in waste electronic equipment can lead to environmental consequences, such as an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to other environmental impacts including harm to biodiversity.

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a record 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of e-waste was generated around the world in 2019, and it is predicted that the annual generation of e-waste will reach 74.7 Mt by 2030.

Through our Product Take-Back (PTB) management program, we work with our customers to recycle waste electrical and electronic equipment in accordance with the law and high environmental standards.

We have decommissioned equipment at no cost to over 40 customers, covering 28 countries across Africa. Approximately 8,271 tonnes of waste electronic and electrical equipment was taken back from Ericsson’s operating countries from January 2012 to August 2022, of which approximately 98% was successfully recycled.

Additionally, we know that high reuse and recycling rates start with smart product design, so we make responsible material choices, increase our use of recycled materials, and design products that enable efficient recycling.

As global and business leaders, civil society groups, and scientists continue to tackle the climate change agenda, we must all understand our critical role in securing a sustainable and safer future for generations. Thinking that environmental sustainability is another person’s responsibility will mean a complete failure. For me, this is a crucial lesson we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all responsible for our future.

Sustainability is a key component of our #AfricainMotion campaign, which we launched a couple of years ago to empower a sustainable and connected Africa. We will continue to enable sustainable growth, economic development and open opportunities for all across the continent. This is a promise!

Ayub Osman is the  Head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson.

 

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