Managing our impact

We are working to reduce the environmental impact of our operations including managing electronic and other forms of waste

Managing our impact

We have robust management systems in place to help us minimise our impact on the environment and continually improve our performance.

Accountability for our environmental performance rests with the senior management in each of our local markets as well as certain Vodafone Group functions, including the Technology and Supply Chain teams. Ultimate accountability rests with local market Chief Executives and the Group Executive Committee.

The issues most relevant to our business are identified through our materiality process (see Our priorities). The most significant environmental impact of our operations is energy use and the related carbon emissions in our network, which we report in Minimising our carbon footprint. We also manage our impact in a range of other areas as described below.

Our environmental management systems provide a framework for managing and reducing our impact across the Group. This includes monitoring risks, setting targets, reviewing progress and reporting performance.

Our local markets’ environmental management systems in the Czech Republic, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain and the UK are certified to international standard ISO 14001.

Read on for more on our approach and our performance. For information on managing our energy use and carbon emissions, see Minimising our carbon footprint.

Electronic waste from our networks

As technology advances, we replace our network equipment with new, more energy-efficient equipment that improves the network service for our customers and makes our operations more efficient. This generates electronic waste (e-waste), most of which is reused or recycled. During 2014/15, we saw a significant increase in the amount of network equipment waste generated as a result of our continued roll-out of Project Spring to upgrade the network across a number of markets. We continued to achieve high recycling rates, with 98% recycled.

Some e-waste is potentially hazardous so it must be handled separately and disposed of responsibly. We seek to comply with environmental regulations and have systems in place to manage the safe disposal of such materials below.

In our mature markets, we generally have a choice of expert e-waste recycling contractors that comply with international regulations on e-waste. However, in emerging markets this is more challenging as there is often a lack of sufficient facilities and legal safeguards for recycling and disposing of e-waste safely. Finding the most sustainable solution in these markets is not always easy, but we always aim to ensure network waste is disposed of responsibly. For example, we may have to choose between:

  • allowing materials to be processed within the emerging market despite a lack of suitable facilities, while helping to build recycling capacity for the future, or
  • transporting materials back to mature markets for processing, which enables the use of high-quality facilities but increases carbon emissions from transport and does not help to build capacity in emerging markets.

In some cases, we store old equipment for future reuse within the business or until we can find a sustainable option for recycling or disposal. Of the e-waste leaving the business, 98% is sent for reuse or recycling and the remaining 2% is disposed of.

Our Group-wide policy on waste management is designed to ensure consistently high standards across the Group. It requires local markets to record all waste streams and only use suppliers that are regulated, licensed or have been assessed as suitably qualified through our supplier qualification processes.

In 2014/15, we assessed compliance against the Group policy for 14 markets and identified areas where further work is needed to achieve full compliance. These include clarification on whether Vodafone or its suppliers have responsibility for end-of-life take back and maintaining an up-to-date list of approved contractors. To improve compliance, we are standardising the way we track network equipment at the end of its life and exploring solutions to enable e-waste to be managed in the countries where it is generated, particularly in emerging markets.

Network equipment waste generated and proportion recycled

Chart showing the following data

98% network equipment waste sent for reuse and recycling

  2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Network equipment waste generated (tonnes) 10,9951 11,4772 20,8283
% of this network equipment waste sent for reuse and recycling 99 99 98


  1. Data excludes DRC, India, Lesotho, Mozambique, Qatar and Tanzania. Data for Egypt is based on receipts from authorised waste contractors.
  2. Data excludes Ghana, India, Lesotho, Qatar and Tanzania. Data for Egypt is based on receipts from authorised waste contractors.
  3. Data excludes Egypt, India, Lesotho and Qatar. The significant increase is due to the ongoing roll-out of Project Spring.

Office waste

We are committed to reducing, reusing and recycling the waste we produce where possible. The main waste produced by our offices, call centres and shops is paper, printer toner cartridges, packaging material and IT equipment. We provide recycling points in offices to encourage employees to recycle and we promote double-sided printing to save paper. IT equipment is either returned to suppliers or donated to charitable causes.


Our operations use relatively little water compared with other industries and we do not consider this to be material to our environmental impact. However, we recognise that water is becoming an increasingly important issue, particularly in water-stressed regions of the world. We monitor and aim to reduce water use locally by, for example, installing low-flow toilets in offices. The increase in consumption this year is primarily due to acquisitions, but also a result of more complete reporting in some markets.

Chart showing the following data

  2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Total volume of water used (million litres) 1,0371 1,4722 1,9003


  1. Data for India, Qatar and Tanzania is based on estimates from previous records. Data from Lesotho and DRC was not available and is therefore excluded.
  2. Data for India and New Zealand is based on estimates from previous records (approximately 10% of the total figure). Data from DRC was not available and is therefore excluded from the total.
  3. Data has been estimated for India and New Zealand using average consumption per employee from other markets.

Ozone depletion

Some of our network cooling systems and air conditioning systems in our offices and shops use refrigerants. We have phased out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and are working to phase out the use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in accordance with the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement on the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances.

Chart showing the following data

  2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Total Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP) of refrigerants and fire suppressants replenished during the year (kg CFC-11 equivalent) 1021 5472 2623


  1. Data excludes Czech Republic, Ghana, India, Lesotho, Mozambique, Qatar and Tanzania.
  2. Data excludes India, Lesotho and Mozambique.
  3. Data excludes India, Qatar and Tanzania.

Complying with environmental regulations

We have taken steps to assist our local markets in complying with applicable environmental legislation, for example on e-waste. This includes national legislation in each market and European regulations such as:

  • the EU’s Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) Directive
  • the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive in EU countries, which requires companies to take back and recycle used electrical and electronic equipment at the end of their useful life
  • the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Directive, which restricts the use of certain substances of high concern in any of the products we sell.

There were no prosecutions for environmental offences in 2014/15. Fines for breaches in environmental regulations have continued to diminish due to enhanced training for employees in certain markets on the importance of community engagement in the siting of base stations.

  2012/13 2013/141 2014/15
Amount of fines for environmental regulation breaches (£) 131,511 46,265 23,516


  1. 2013/14 value has been restated to more accurately reflect administrative charges in Turkey rather than environmental fines.