Environmental footprint – Performance in 2013/14

We continue to invest in new high performance technologies such as smart metering, hybrid generators and tri-generation (combined heat, power and cooling) systems to make our network more energy efficient. This enables us to minimise increases in our carbon emissions as our business grows to meet the needs of our growing customer base and rising demand for mobile internet and data services.

Our carbon footprint

In 2013/14, our net Group carbon emissions expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) totalled 2.55 million tonnes. This 8% increase from 2012/13 was due almost entirely to the inclusion of carbon data from our newly acquired businesses, Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW) and Telstra, on which we have not previously reported. Excluding the emissions from our new acquisitions, our total CO2 emissions increased only slightly by 1% despite significant increases in our customer’s use of data and the expansion of our network. CO2 emissions for pre-existing operations were stable across both developed and emerging markets, partially as a result of energy efficiency measures balancing the growth in energy demand from increased use of our network; and partially due to the greening of electricity supply grids in some of our major markets.

The volume of traffic across our network since 2007 has increased more than ten-fold, and the number of base stations servicing this traffic has increased three-fold. In spite of this huge growth, and a number of significant acquisitions, our carbon emissions have been held to a two-fold increase, due to a proactive strategy to improve the energy efficiency across our networks and data centres. As a result, the efficiency of our operations has greatly improved with the average CO2 emissions per base station now almost 40% lower than in 2007.

Using our M2M and other Low carbon solutions enables our customers to reduce their carbon footprint. Our research with the Carbon Trust in 2013 found that four Vodafone solutions – smart metering, smart logistics and fleet management, call conferencing, cloud and hosting services – delivered total carbon savings for our customers of 2.29 million tonnes of CO2e in 2012/13, which is almost equal to the net carbon footprint of 2.36 million tonnes of CO2e for our own operations in the same year. We now have contracts in place to supply approximately 13.8 million M2M connections for smart metering, transport and logistics. Many of these will enable carbon reductions by reducing energy and fuel consumption (see Low carbon solutions).

To reduce our reliance on carbon intensive energy sources, we promote the use of small-scale renewables to power our network. We installed solar power at a further 210 sites (mostly in India) in 2013/14, although solar is still only used at a small proportion of our base station sites across the Group. We also purchase 15% of our grid electricity from renewable sources, and in 2013/14 we established an agreement with Energiekontor AG, a major European renewable power developer, to buy the power produced from its wind farm in Northamptonshire, UK, for the next 15 years. This agreement, the first of its kind for Vodafone, is designed to reduce risks related to energy price increases as well as supporting the development of renewable energy by investing in this wind farm.

See Data for detailed carbon accounts.

  • Ongoing
  • Achieved
  • Partial
  • Not achieved
Objective Our performance in 2013/14 Status
Reduce CO2 emissions by 50% against the 2006/07 baseline by March 2020 for mature markets1 When emissions from fixed line acquisitions are taken into account, net CO2 emissions in our mature markets have decreased by 5% since 2006/07. Based on current projections we are unlikely to meet the 50% reduction target by 2020, but we continue to deploy energy efficiency measures to minimise our carbon footprint in the context of business growth. ongoing
Reduce CO2 per network node2 by 20% against a 2010/11 baseline by March 2015 for emerging markets3 We reduced our emissions per network node to 15 tonnes of CO2, a 19% reduction from the 2010/11 baseline – coming very close to achieving this 2015 target a year early. ongoing


  1. Mature markets are defined as those obligated under the Kyoto Protocol: Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the UK.
  2. A single base station site may contain more than one node for each type of network served (eg 2G, 3G or 4G).
  3. Emerging markets are defined as those not obligated under the Kyoto Protocol: Albania, Egypt, Ghana, India, Malta, Qatar, South Africa and Turkey.

Understanding energy use in our networks

In 2013/14, we extended the rollout of smart meters. Now installed at 50,000 of our base stations, these meters provide detailed information on energy use, helping us identify and target opportunities to reduce consumption – and improving the accuracy of our billing which allows us to negotiate better tariffs with utility companies. All newly constructed base stations now have smart meters installed as standard, and we will continue to roll out smart meters over the next few years.

Around 45% of our mobile telephone exchange sites are sub-metered, providing us with a detailed understanding of the energy use inside the mobile telephone exchange centres, such as the air conditioners and lighting equipment. We are using this insight to help us identify opportunities to significantly improve energy efficiency at these sites.

In addition to monitoring our own energy use, we also offer smart metering solutions to our enterprise customers to help them monitor and reduce their energy use. See Low carbon solutions.

Improving energy efficiency in our networks

In 2013/14, we continued to apply relevant energy efficiency measures across some of our network, which includes more than 263,400 base station sites and 343 core facilities such as mobile telephone exchanges. Initiatives include:

  • Rolling out free air cooling at a further 13,997 base station sites, saving between 2,000kWh and 3,500kWh of energy per year per site by reducing the need for air conditioning
  • Introducing batteries that can withstand higher temperatures (up to 35°C) at around 600 sites, to reduce the need for air conditioning in hot countries
  • Deploying hybrid solutions – a combination of diesel generators and batteries that cut diesel use by up to 70% per site – at a further 656 sites, so these are now in place at more than 3,600 base station sites across the Group
  • Installing efficient Single RAN technology (allowing multiple network radio technologies, 2G, 3G and 4G to be run from a single base station) at a further 33,162 sites – now installed at 45% of our sites in total
  • Deploying a further 50,000 energy-saving software features at our base stations – such as transceivers that switch-off automatically in periods of low traffic – reducing energy use of each base station by up to 10%
  • Adopting free air cooling at 45% of our mobile telephone exchange sites, changing the layout of equipment and increasing the temperature at which air conditioning is triggered to 25°C to further benefit from free cooling at 36% of these sites
  • Extending tri-generation (combined heat, power and cooling), piloted at one of our mobile telephone exchange sites in Italy, where it enabled us to reduce energy use by 20% and related CO2 emissions by 15%.

Energy efficiency in our data centres and operations

Carbon emissions from energy use in our data centres accounted for approximately 10% of our total emissions in 2013/14, and are projected to increase in the future as consumer demand for mobile internet and data services grows.

A common measure of data centre efficiency is power use effectiveness (PUE), the proportion of energy used to power computer equipment as opposed to ancillary functions such as cooling. At our global and regional data centres in Germany, Ireland, Italy and the UK, we have achieved an average PUE of 1.49 by introducing a range of energy efficiency initiatives. Examples include:

  • Integrating energy efficiency requirements in our requests for proposals for data centre equipment from suppliers
  • Replacing the air conditioning units used to cool our computer rooms with new more efficient models
  • Increasing maximum air temperature before air conditioning turns on from 20°C to 28°C at data centres in Germany, India, Ireland, Italy and South Africa to reduce the amount of energy needed for cooling
  • Improving the virtualisation ratio – the number of virtual servers compared with physical servers – from 52% in 2012/13 to 55% in 2013/14, making more effective use of space at our data centres and reducing the need for physical infrastructure
  • Achieving third-party certification for energy efficiency of our new data centre in Turkey, and retaining third-party certification for the third year running of our major data centres in Germany and Ireland – all three data centres have a premium rating (more than 85%) for energy efficiency.

We also target reductions in CO2 emissions from other parts of our operations, including employee travel, office and IT impacts. In 2013/14, carbon emissions from our business air travel increased by 3.5% in line with the number of employees. We have increased the use of our remote collaboration technologies by almost 35%1 in 2013/14 with employees using video conferencing for an estimated 100,000 hours a month.

Our flexible working programmes in several markets are helping to reduce energy use and emissions from offices and employee commuting. We are using these programmes to showcase the potential of our technology to bring similar benefits for our customers (see Smart working).

We also aim to reduce overall environmental impacts from our office buildings. In 2013/14, for example, our offices in Germany achieved gold level certification from the LEED green buildings organisation and our Site Solution Innovation Centre in South Africa has previously been awarded the maximum six stars from the South African Green Building Council.

In focus: Targeting reductions in office energy and paper use

We continued to extend our Less Paper Office initiative in 2013/14. It has already enabled us to reduce the amount of paper we use, our annual printing costs and our energy and related CO2 emissions. This initiative is based on using large, multifunctional devices – each shared by around 60 people – to replace individual printers, photocopiers, scanners and fax machines. Default settings promote double-sided and black-and-white printing.

Targetting emissions reductions through innovation

In 2013/14, we continued to trial a number of innovative technologies by partnering with suppliers at our Site Solution Innovation Centre in South Africa. These include:

  • A compact hybrid generator developed by Vodafone, known as a ‘power cube’, which can reduce the running time of a diesel generator by up to 82%, save up to 93% on servicing costs and cut fuel consumption by more than 50% – four types of power cube have been tested at sites in South Africa
  • More efficient filters that extend the life of base station equipment and reduce the number of maintenance trips required, cutting operating costs and travel emissions
  • Air conditioners that use up to 75% less energy by running on both alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) power
  • Solar upgrade kits, which enable us to attach solar panels to existing sites that already use hybrid generators to further reduce diesel consumption – the design of the kits will be finalised following a trial at some sites in 2013/14.

As we expand our networks to more rural areas, we are exploring opportunities to use renewable power generated at our base stations to bring power to remote communities without electricity. In the first two years of operating a trial site in South Africa, we cut our monthly diesel use by 90%, labour maintenance costs by 24%, and reduced CO2 emissions from the site by 90%. There have also been significant benefits to the community. Following its success, we are planning to open a second trial site in 2014 that will provide power to a local school (see Low carbon solutions).

Managing waste from our networks

As we introduce new technologies to our network that help improve its speed and efficiency, we replace outdated equipment, most of which is reused or recycled.

Electronic waste (e-waste) is an ongoing concern, particularly in emerging markets, which often lack sufficient facilities and legal safeguards for recycling and disposing of it safely. We aim to ensure network waste is disposed of responsibly as we expand our operations in these markets. In 2013/14, we published a Group-wide policy on e-waste management to ensure consistently high standards across the Group. When fully implemented, the policy will require local markets to record all waste streams and only use regulated or licensed, screened suppliers.

See Data for more on our network waste performance.


  1. Estimate based on Group and Italian video conference facilities, comparing figures for March 2013 to March 2014.