Pioneering a Sustainable Future

Oct 6, 2021 10:05 AM ET
Article

Ericsson is creating a world of limitless connectivity, where mobile technology opens new possibilities to pioneer a sustainable future. With global collaboration and digital innovation, carbon emissions can be reduced by 15% by 2030. With 5G we can do even more. By working together, a better world is within our reach.

Urgent change is needed now

The need to address the climate crisis is well established. Adding to an already detailed body of climate research, the 2021 IPCC Report from the UN makes clear the critical need for immediate and drastic climate action, and highlights the indisputable link between climate change and human activity.

The science is clear – to minimize the damage and avoid reaching an irreversible tipping point, we need to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The 2021 UN IPCC Report reiterates that collectively, we need to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero before 2050. But even with the reductions achieved in 2020 due to the pandemic (the most since World War II) the world is forecast to miss its annual targets.

It is evident that we need transformational changes to address the climate crisis - a transformation that will rely on technology, innovation, and cross-industry collaboration.

Collectively, the global economy will need to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero before 2050.

The role of digitalization in climate action

Working within the technology sector, we have the chance to use our specialist expertise to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, the ICT sector has the unique potential to enable other industrial sectors to move towards a low-carbon economy – a move that is central to meeting Goal 13, which focusses on combatting climate change and its impacts.

"Ericsson has a long history of helping to create sustainable change. For more than a century our technologies have transformed every sector of society and Ericsson remains committed to leading this journey. Through research, science and industry ecosystems we are convinced that digitalization and 5G can help tackle the climate challenge." – Heather Johnson, VP, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson

As part of our commitment towards environmental sustainability, Ericsson was a lead partner in the development of the Exponential Climate Action Roadmap that was launched at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2018. The Roadmap shows that there are 36 existing solutions across sectors that can be scaled globally to help halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

In addition, research from the roadmap highlights that ICT solutions can reduce global carbon emissions by up to 15% by 2030. Digital technologies and the digitalization of industrial processes will be key to enabling this change. And with 5G underpinning the digitalization of industries and future competitiveness of business, mobile technology has a fundamental role to play.

Cellular connectivity is a crucial enabler

Technologies such as 5G, AI and IoT are being utilized today as essential drivers of decarbonization. But the real change will start to happen when enterprises switch to cellular connectivity. Here are just some examples of how cellular connectivity will accelerate sustainable development.

Manufacturing

When factories cut the cables and switch to cellular, they become much more flexible and produce less waste, while increasing productivity. Ericsson's 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, is a great example of what is possible. By digitalizing many of its fundamentals, the Lewisville factory has reduced energy use by 24%, relative to comparable buildings, while also increasing productivity.

Renewable energy

According to the UN, 85% of power in 2050 will need to come from renewable sources. This will mean a huge transformation for energy operators and distributors who will need greater visibility and control of their distribution networks. With 5G, these operators can connect smart meters to the grid and proactively detect faults and demand spikes that might arise, for example, from the mass charging of electric vehicles.

Transport

The transport sector is another area where digitalization can have a big impact, with the sector representing 21% of total global emissions (source: 2018 Exponential Climate Roadmap). 5G and data analytics are going to be an integral part of this equation – especially when it comes to operating autonomous vehicles on a massive scale. 5G, for example, will enable operators to control large fleets of autonomous vehicles remotely and optimize route planning and traffic, all with reduced operational costs and environmental footprint.

Sustainability is central to our purpose

At Ericsson, we have the expertise and the commitment to make a positive impact. Sustainability is central to our purpose as a company and is embedded across our value chain. Our approach is holistic, covering responsible business, environmental sustainability and digital inclusion.

Our approach to environmental sustainability

Addressing climate change is a core component of our sustainability strategy. We leverage a circular economy approach in everything we do; and work to reduce environmental impacts and emissions from our operations, our portfolio and through the solutions we deliver across society more broadly.

We are leading by example and even though our own operations are just a small part of value-chain emissions, we are equally focussed on optimizing how we operate. That’s why, in 2019, Ericsson set a Carbon Neutral target for our own operations by 2030. 

Climate action advocates

For over two decades we’ve been advocates for climate action. We carry out peer-reviewed research, both alone and in collaboration with research partners from academia and business, on the environmental, social and economic effects of the ICT sector. We were also one of the first companies to implement life-cycle assessment methodology as an environmental strategy tool, leveraging data from our own operations, as well as our customers’ networks and the wider ICT ecosystem. We assess annually our carbon footprint and have set targets for its reduction that are approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative.

Breaking the energy curve

‘Breaking the energy curve’ is our unique, network-level approach to reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions in mobile networks. Through our detailed research and life-cycle assessments, we have developed an innovative network-wide approach to breaking the curve that can support cost savings, efficiency gains and enable an exponential growth of data traffic without increasing energy consumption.

Science Based Targets Initiative

We were one of the first companies in our industry to set Science Based Targets and actively contributed to the development of a 1.5°C aligned trajectory for the ICT sector, which helps ICT companies set targets and enable fast decarbonization of the sector. 

1.5°C Business Playbook

We helped create the first 1.5°C Business Playbook for exponential climate action. The Playbook provides a framework on how companies and organizations of all sizes can fully integrate climate action into their business strategies and reach net-zero emissions.

With our longstanding commitment, Ericsson has been a pioneer in the sustainability space

Global collaboration is key

Technologies such as 5G, IoT and AI are opening a wealth of new opportunities by accelerating the speed of digitalization across multiple industries. With these new opportunities and the rapid pace of innovation, we believe there is an opportunity to achieve the 2030 milestone of halving emissions ahead of time. But to do so will need a concerted, collective effort from a wide range of parties – from industries and investors to governments and academia.

The battle against climate change can’t be fought alone. It’s only through the use technology and innovation across all sectors of society, along with the right policy mix and concrete climate action, that we’ll realize the change needed to reach a 1.5°C future. Ericsson is committed to working together with business, governments, and other organizations to tackle the climate challenge.

“We have demonstrated solutions that help make reductions in carbon emissions possible. Now other companies and policy-makers must join the quest for broader adoption of solutions to enable exponential reduction of carbon emissions globally." - Börje Ekholm, CEO and President Ericsson