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Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Sprint is the first and, to date, only U.S. telecom company to publicly announce an absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goal. By 2017, Sprint intends to reduce GHG emissions by an absolute 20 percent compared to 2007 levels. The 20 percent reduction applies to scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, less any offsets for renewable energy. Sprint's strategy to reduce GHG emissions has three components: reduce energy requirements, improve energy efficiency and increase use of clean (renewable or alternative) energy.

GHG Emissions Reporting Methodology

Sprint uses the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Leaders GHG methodology for its GHG-emissions calculations. This methodology is based on the protocol developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) - the globally recognized standard-setters for GHG-emissions measurement. Sprint measures direct emissions (scope 1), indirect emissions (scope 2) and portions of optional emissions (scope 3). For scope 1 and 2, we include emissions from all sources where we maintain operational control.

For scope 3 emissions, Sprint reviewed the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) supplement to the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, to determine which scope 3 categories were applicable and which could be accurately reported on for 2011. Of the 15 categories, Sprint reported on five in its 2011 Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) submission; Sprint is in the process of collecting data for an additional three and is assessing the materiality of the remaining seven. Sprint partnered with Trucost, a leading environmental-impact assessment firm, to determine the scope 3 emissions for four of the five reported categories. Sprint provided Trucost with its 2011 supply-chain spend data by scope 3 category, and then Trucost calculated the direct and indirect carbon emissions for each supplier, which were apportioned based on expenditure. To learn more about the methodology or to review a copy of the project's Highlight report, click here. Additional details on Sprint's scope 3 assessment approach and results is provided in the Scope 3 Emissions section.

In early 2008, Sprint developed its first GHG Inventory Management Plan, which was reviewed and approved by Climate Leaders, a climate partnership program between industry and the U.S. EPA. This plan is updated each year and reviewed for completeness and accuracy as part of Sprint's GHG verification process.

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Drivers of Sprint GHG Emissions

Electrical use (scope 2) is the single largest driver of Sprint's controllable (scope 1 and 2) GHG emissions, contributing 97.7 percent of the total. Sprint's direct emissions account for only 2.3 percent of controllable emissions and include: fuel use for stationary and mobile emergency-power generators, natural-gas usage for heating at a relatively small number of sites, jet-fuel usage, fuel used by fleet vehicles (approximately 1,500 cars and vans), minor fire-suppression discharges, and minor leak discharges associated with heating and cooling systems throughout the enterprise.

The majority of Sprint's GHG emissions come from electricity use in Sprint's networks (83.5 percent). Overall, the Network organization is responsible for 84.8 percent of total controllable GHG emissions. The other Sprint organizations contributing to Sprint's GHG emissions are: Real Estate (8.6 percent); Retail, Sales and Marketing (2.8 percent); and IT (3.8 percent). All of Sprint's controllable emissions are in the U.S. with less than 1 percent coming from the unincorporated U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam combined.

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GHG Results

In 2011, Sprint improved performance against the 2017 reduction goal, decreasing total reported emissions (scope 1 and scope 2, less renewables) by 3.25 percent. Three factors combined for most of this reduction: emission-reduction activities, an increase in renewable-energy purchases and a reduction in iDEN-energy use related to the preparation Sprint's Network Vision project. The table below lists the drivers of 2011 CO2e reduction, the amount of CO2e change associated with each, and its share of the reduction total.

In 2011, Sprint reduced scope 1 emissions by 32.76 percent, reduced scope 2 emissions by 1.23 percent, and increased its renewable energy use by 22.83 percent. This netted out to a 3.25 percent total reduction in 2011 and an aggregate reduction of 10.35 percent from 2007 through 2011 — 52 percent of the total reduction goal of 20 percent. As shown in the table above, 42 percent of the decrease resulted from emission-reduction activities, which included such projects as replacing six cylinder vehicles in our fleet with four cylinder SmartWay-certified vehicles; installing data-center energy-efficiency hardware, such as Computer Room Air Conditioner Zone Controls and variable frequency drives; adding building-automation systems at call-center and retail locations; installing proximity lighting; and providing energy-efficiency training to facility managers.

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Emissions Disclosure and Assurance

In addition to disclosing its GHG results on its website, Sprint publicly discloses annual emissions through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). CDP is an independent not-for-profit organization holding the largest database of primary corporate climate-change information in the world. In 2011, Sprint was recognized as the top performer within the S&P 500 telecommunications sector as the only company to achieve a "B" or higher in the Performance Score and receiving the highest disclosure score with a score of "81," nine points ahead of the nearest competitor.

Please click here for Sprint's 2013 CDP submission.

An important part of annual GHG reporting and disclosure is verification or assurance — having an external firm review and verify that your GHG data management process is appropriate and reported results are accurate. Sprint was the first wireless provider in the United States to externally assure its GHG emissions and has committed to assure its results annually as part of its agreement for the World Wildlife Fund's Climate Saver's Program. For the past two years, Sprint has assured 100 percent of its scope 1 and scope 2 emissions. Click here for a copy of Sprint's 2011 verification statement.

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Carbon Intensity

Although Sprint's primary performance measurement for GHG emissions is the percentage of absolute reduction, Sprint began measuring and reporting its carbon intensity in 2011. Since the majority of Sprint's GHG emissions are driven by electricity use in the Sprint network, the logical intensity measurement for Sprint is GHG emissions per unit of traffic carried over the networks. All of Sprint's traffic can be measured in terms of terabytes of data. A terabyte is equal to 1 trillion bytes or 1000 gigabytes. A byte is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, a byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer.

Sprint started measuring terabytes of data across its wireline and wireless networks in 2009 and has been able to capture baseline data back to 2007. As shown in the table below, Sprint has improved its carbon efficiency year-over-year since 2007, with a 60-percent improvement from 2007 through 2011, and a 31-percent improvement in 2011 alone. Sprint is well on its way to achieving its carbon-efficiency target of .42 MT of CO2e per Terabyte, which represents a 75 percent improvement. Sprint's carbon-efficiency improvement target (75 percent) is the most aggressive in the U.S. wireless industry.

Note: Sprint calculates its carbon efficiency by using the CO2e figure for its reporting goal (scope 1 plus scope 2, less any reductions for renewable energy).

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Network Vision and GHG Forecast

In 2010 Sprint announced its Network Vision project. Through the Network Vision project, Sprint will upgrade existing wireless-network infrastructure so that it becomes capable of supporting multiple spectrum bands, or airwaves, on single, multi-mode base stations. Sprint cell sites will be more compact and energy-efficient and able to provide better coverage and call quality for customers.

Over the past several years, Sprint has used separate equipment to deploy services on 800 MHz spectrum, 1.9 GHz spectrum and, through its relationship with Clearwire, 2.5 GHz spectrum. The new architecture in Network Vision will allow Sprint to integrate wireless networks. The project is expected to cost between $4 and $5 billion and may result in GHG increases through 2013. The increases could result from having both the old and new network hardware and software operating side-by-side until all traffic has been moved off of the old infrastructure and all hardware has been decommissioned. Although Sprint had anticipated an increase in 2011, energy-efficiency projects offset the increases experienced from Network Vision, allowing total emissions to decrease. The potential for absolute increases will be highest during 2012 and 2013. Sprint is hopeful it can continue to effectively manage other emissions and maintain or even improve upon the GHG-reduction achievements experienced through 2011. The full reduction target should be achieved by the end of 2016.

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World Wildlife Fund Climate Savers Program

Sprint became a member of the World Wildlife Climate Savers Program in October 2011. WWF Climate Savers is a global leadership platform which positions multinational corporations at the forefront of the low-carbon economy. The member companies set sector-leading targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction in their own emissions and work with other companies, suppliers and partners to implement innovative solutions for a clean low-carbon economy. Member companies benefit from WWF's expertise as well as that from other members.

The process began with a consultation between Sprint and WWF to identify carbon opportunities. The organizations saw the basis for a successful partnership and crafted an agreement based on specific circumstances and market sectors. Sprint and WWF established measureable targets and timelines and committed to provide an annual update on progress.

Sprint's Climate Savers commitments include:

  • Reducing CO2 emissions an absolute 20 percent by 2017 (against a 2007 baseline)
  • Partnering with device manufacturers and suppliers to measure, report and reduce their emissions
  • Identifying opportunities to reduce emissions associated with customers charging their mobile devices
  • Identifying opportunities for Sprint to help other companies reduce their emissions, particularly through machine-to-machine partnerships

Additional information about Sprint's participation in the WWF Climate Savers Program can be found here.

Northern Great Plains Assessment of the impact of Climate Change
Sprint, through the Sprint Foundation, has also provided a $50,000 grant to WWF for a project designed to better understand how the Northern Great Plains will be affected by climate change and to share that information with local stakeholders. The objectives of the project included:

  • To design and complete a study that will predict the impact of climate change on forage productivity in two priority landscapes in the Northern Great Plains Ecoregion: Montana Glaciated Plains and Conata Basin (South Dakota).
  • To develop recommendations, based on the results of this analysis, which will help wildlife and land managers and producers manage their land to ensure resiliency in a changing climate.
  • To deliver at least two workshops to key stakeholder groups in the Northern Great Plains Ecoregion, which will provide information needed to ensure that they are prepared for the future and will allow WWF to develop stronger relationships with these key stakeholder groups.

As of June 2012, WWF has completed the project and is assessing what the next steps should be in leveraging the project findings.

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Sprint Greenhouse Gas Emission Results 2007 through 2011

Sprint's GHG results from 2007 through 2011 are provided in the table below:

(1) Changed measurement approach from fuel used (based on a partial measurement from a remote monitoring system) to fuel purchased. Restated back years based on revised more accurate measurement approach.

(2) Assessed for 2007. Data on all AC equipment not currently available. Working on new data capture method.3) Fire suppression releases include emissions from Ecaro 25 and FM 200. Emissions from Halon 1301 are excluded (per guidance from EPA Climate Leaders under Optional Emissions).

(4) 2010 Supply Chain emissions report included Capital Goods, Waste in Operations, Upstream Transportation/Distribution, but did not break them out.

(*) Total emissions for these scope 3 categories are included in the Purchased Goods and Services figure.

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