As the number of worldwide mobile handset shipments continues to grow, mobile operators are poised to play a more significant role in the mobile handset ecosystem and the drive toward true sustainability. According to new research from International Data Corporation (IDC), mobile operators are investing in and increasing their efforts around green handset sourcing, energy usage, end-of-life programs, and packaging.
IDC's mobile operators' green ranking is based on an analysis of the handset sustainability efforts of mobile operators across the globe. The criteria focused on mobile operators' overall sustainable handset strategy, packaging, materials, energy, and end-of-life programs for mobile devices. As a result of this analysis, IDC has identified the top green mobile operators (listed in alphabetical order) – AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, Telefónica, and Vodafone.
"For a long time much of the attention around device sustainability was centered on the handset manufacturers," said Stephen Drake, program vice president, Mobility and Telecom. "While operators don't produce mobile phones, they are instrumental in driving the design, packaging, and materials used in handsets and are in the forefront in device lifecycle management from procurement to takeback."
Highlights of the top vendors' mobile device sustainability efforts include the following:
* AT&T – AT&T is taking a broad approach to bringing sustainable handsets to market. The company believes it can have more of a beneficial impact on the environment if it is able to incorporate elements of sustainability into all of the devices in its portfolio, rather than only focusing on offering a few devices that are ecocentric.
* Deutsche Telekom -- Deutsche Telekom has taken a very broad view of sustainability, which extends into the handset space. The company works with its suppliers to minimize the negative ecological and social effects resulting from the extraction of raw materials, such as those used in the manufacture of mobile phones.
* Sprint -- Sprint Nextel has been very aggressive in their efforts to bring more sustainable handsets to market. The company's first green handset, the Samsung Reclaim, was announced in August 2009. Since then, the company has added two more green devices to its lineup: the Samsung Restore and the LG Remarq, both of which meet Sprint's eco criteria and carry the eco logo.
* Telefónica -- In the summer of 2010, Telefónica's O2 division partnered with Forum for the Future to develop the United Kingdom's first "eco rating" for handsets in its portfolio. The ratings give consumers greater visibility into the sustainability aspects of devices they are considering purchasing. Devices were ranked by their environmental impact throughout the whole life cycle, how the handset could encourage sustainable behavior, as well as the ethical performance of the manufacturer.
* Vodafone -- Vodafone has incorporated sustainability into many aspects of its business. The operator is working with suppliers to develop more efficient and environmentally friendly devices, and encouraging its partners to become more environmentally friendly in their own business practices. The operator is also working with its handset vendors to ensure that minerals used in the production of devices are not sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Other operators ranked in the IDC report are China Mobile, Rogers Communications, SK Telecom, Telenor Group, and Verizon Wireless.
IDC used a variety of primary and secondary sources to obtain information on mobile operators' green handset portfolio, their overall strategy for sustainable devices, device packaging, materials, energy, end-of-life programs, and overall sustainability efforts to develop this document. IDC spoke with the vendors directly and leveraged companies' published corporate responsibility reports and other publicly available corporate and product environmental reports and information as available.
The study, Worldwide Mobile Operator 2010 Vendor Profiles: A Green Analysis — An Evaluation of 10 Key Mobile Operators' Mobile Phone Sustainability Efforts (IDC #226277), analyzes the sustainability efforts of ten key mobile operators. It ranks these operators across a multitude of key criteria including their overall green handset strategy, the number and variety of green mobile devices offered, efforts to work with handset manufacturers to develop and bring to market sustainable devices, activities around device packaging, materials, energy, end-of-life programs, and overall sustainability efforts.