CEO of KPN Eelco Blok on adopting greener, smarter and more economical policy

Reading time: 9 minutes
2 December 2015

As a series of ICT companies join the RE100 campaign this week, Eelco Blok, Chairman of the Board of Management and Chief Executive Officer of major Dutch telecommunications company KPN, blogs exclusively for us about the company's 100% renewable electricity achievement and low carbon investments, and how the rest of the sector can follow suit.

Ten years ago, when we developed our new KPN logo and decided that green was to remain a prominent color, it was not particularly because of our CSR policy. Back then we were a traditional telecoms company. Our CSR policy was still in its infancy and we had not yet formulated solid energy targets.

How different it is now, 10 years later. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that we have experienced a CSR metamorphosis in recent years. Consuming less energy and reducing CO2 emissions has been a top priority at KPN since 2008.

Climate neutral

Probably the best way for me to illustrate how quickly things have changed is by mentioning a fantastic milestone: KPN has become a climate neutral company in 2015, five years earlier than planned.

And here’s how we do it. We only purchase electricity that has been generated in the Netherlands from natural sources such as wind and biomass. Where we have no other green alternative but to resort to using motor fuel, we compensate its usage fully.

Also, we have shown that business growth doesn’t automatically have to result in a rise in energy consumption. Indeed, our consumption has fallen because we are using our fixed and mobile networks more efficiently, even as data growth and the internet has grown exponentially. KPN is not unique in this respect. If we are able to become a climate neutral company, others can follow suit.

We were among the first companies to join the RE100 campaign in 2014 and are proud to have watched the campaign quadruple in size as more companies, including ICT companies have come on board.

If we all – as corporations – make our ambitions clear, governments will be urged to take the right measures to make supply meet the demand. COP21 surely will play a crucial role to make the changes for the better here.

Customers and suppliers

In the last few years we have transformed KPN into a green, sustainable  ICT service provider with a climate policy that rivals that of the best performers in our sector. In addition, for some time now, we have extended our CSR focus beyond our own organization to our customers and suppliers.

We practice what we preach, for example  by encouraging flexible working, teleconferencing and videoconferencing through products and services that support this 'New Way of Living & Working'. And we help customers reduce their energy consumption via energy-saving devices and efficient services and products.

The 'Internet of Things' applications will make an essential contribution to this direction. At the beginning of November KPN made the first two major steps in that respect: in two big Dutch cities we launched the LoRA (low range) network, the start of a national rollout that will be completed in 2016.

The applications via smart chips and sensors are unprecedented and unlimited – from dike monitoring to flexible street lighting, and from tunnel inspection to tracking and tracing goods – and holds the potential for increasing efficiency and reducing energy consumption across sectors.

We foresee that the inextricable link between ICT and climate mitigation will become even stronger in the future compared to the business as usual projection of IPCC for 2030. ICT enabled emissions are therefore able to hold global emissions on 2015 level.

Note: every 1% business growth now leads to 0.5% emissions growth. It is all set out in the report Smarter2030, to which KPN also made a contribution. Together with other ICT companies we see opportunities for the ICT sector to reduce CO2 emissions worldwide by around 20% in 2030. A tremendous challenge, especially when you consider that the ICT sector is responsible for no more than 2% of total CO2 emissions.

efficient and effective

For western companies, one of the biggest contributions to reducing CO2 can be made in the mobility and logistics sector. For a company like ours that focuses particularly on the Netherlands, this is one of our main sectors.

With services for e-work, we can help reduce traffic jams. With e-health we can make healthcare more effective and keep it affordable. With connectivity through LoRa, we can help many sectors work more efficiently by using transportation when it makes sense: let the garbage trucks only turn out when the bins ‘tell’ us that they are full, instead of making the same round every Monday morning. These are just a few examples of the uncountable opportunities in which KPN is investing now and in the future. 

I firmly believe that we will succeed in jointly reducing global CO2 emissions, as long as we embrace the development and implementation of innovative, advanced technologies. So ICT will be the driver of progress and the catalyst for a better climate.

By aiming high we have already managed to achieve climate neutrality five years before we planned to. I am convinced it must be within reach of other companies as well, to exceed their own expectations on this matter. May COP21 be an inspiration to all of us.

By Eelco Blok, Chairman of the Board of Management and Chief Executive Office, KPN


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