Australia’s Carbon-Neutral Telcos and Phone Plans

Telstra mobile phone plans are now carbon neutral

As climate change becomes widely accepted as our new reality, many Australians have become interested in how much they individually contribute to environmental decline. One of the areas where Aussies contribute to climate change without knowing is through their phone usage. As a result, telcos are now becoming more intentional about eliminating practices that emit greenhouse gases or offsetting such actions.

Two popular terms are used to describe the goals of companies taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints:

  • Carbon neutral, and
  • Net Zero Carbon

The latest telco to announce its green practices is Telstra. The largest major telco in Australia recently announced that its SIM plans are now 100 percent carbon neutral. But while many use both carbon neutral and Net Zero interchangeably, they are different. In this article, we will discuss the difference between carbon neutral and Net Zero and delve into the Australian telcos selling SIM plans that are actually carbon neutral.

What is the difference between carbon neutral and Net Zero carbon?

The terms Carbon Neutral and Net Zero carbon are frequently used to describe a strategy to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions, but they focus on different methods and objectives.

  • Carbon Neutral focuses primarily on offsetting energy usage to decrease emissions. For example, a company that aims to be carbon neutral removes an amount of carbon from the atmosphere equal to the carbon it generates to balance Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. A company can accomplish carbon neutral status by purchasing carbon credits, which is basically government permission to emit GHG to mitigate its effects, or by supporting renewable energy initiatives of other entities. These options do not mandate the company itself to reduce its carbon emissions, but rather that it offsets its emissions by reducing GHG from entities outside of the company.
  • In contrast, the Net Zero carbon strategy involves reducing the GHG emitted by the company rather than merely buying carbon credits and/or supporting renewable energy initiatives of other entities.For example, if a company’s logistics include transporting goods in large trailers ten times a week, a Net Zero approach would require that the company cut those trips in half and maybe invest in renewable energy initiatives to offset the five trips per week used to transport goods. It is important to note that the company cannot cease transporting goods as it would end its business.

For further information on the differences between “Carbon Neutral” and “Net Zero” carbon, you can read our detailed article about Australia’s carbon-neutral telcos

Telstra becomes the latest telco to offer carbon-neutral phone plans to Australians

If you’re a Telstra customer concerned about the environment, you have cause to celebrate. That’s because Telstra has announced that its SIM plans are now certified carbon neutral.

In a previous article, we described some of the steps Telstra has taken to achieve Carbon neutral status. In fact, in some areas, Telstra itself has been certified carbon neutral for offsetting energy usage. Telstra’s energy usage is equivalent to 300,000 homes, which translates into a significant carbon footprint. However, Telstra also generates renewable energy that accounts for over 30 percent of its usage. This and other sustainability plans earned Telstra carbon-neutral status a few years ago, certified by Climate Active.

Telstra has expanded its sustainability plans even further to make its SIM plans 100 percent carbon neutral. According to Telstra, everything from the manufacturing of its SIM cards to the energy used to power them is now offset, meaning your usage of any postpaid or prepaid Telstra mobile plan is now carbon neutral.

So how does Telstea ‘offset’ its energy usage? Well, the telco invests and supports projects and technologies that help fight climate change, thereby accumulating carbon credits. While this does not place Telstra in Net Zero status, which requires reducing its actual emissions, the telco has stated that as its ultimate goal.

According to Telstra’s statement on its carbon-neutral phone plans, its climate targets focus on three key areas:

  • Reduce absolute scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030, as measured against Telstra’s FY19 baseline.
  • By 2025, achieve renewable energy generation equivalent to 100 percent of consumption, enabling Telstra to reduce its carbon footprint further.
  • Offset any emissions that have not been reduced since Telstra’s carbon-neutral journey began in 2020.

Other Carbon neutral telcos in Australia

Telstra is not alone in the carbon-neutral journey. In a previous article where we discussed which phone company is best for environmental impact, we listed the following telcos as Australia’s carbon-neutral phone companies, asides Telstra:

  • Felix Mobile sources 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources, is fully digital and has pledged to plant a tree for each customer every month they remain active on a Felix SIM plan. One tree can sequester as much as 21kg of carbon annually. Felix offers one phone plan reselling the Vodafone network, which includes unlimited data with download speeds capped at 20Mbps.
  • Belong, a telco in Australia, has been carbon neutral since 2019, before its parent company Telstra, and it became fully digital in 2020 to further reduce its carbon footprint. Belong also launched a “carbon thumbprint app” to track customers’ mobile data emissions. They offer postpaid, month-to-month SIM-only plans and NBN plans.
  • Optus has pledged to get 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. It recently launched Optus Eco to advise customers on reducing their carbon footprint by recycling old phones and using eSIM plans instead of traditional SIM cards.
  • TPG Telecom (Vodafone) has pledged to get 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025; this does not include parts of the telco dealing with NBN plans.

Final words

Carbon neutral isn’t just a catchy term to show how current one is in the battle against climate change. It is an actual method to keep companies’ negative environmental impact to a minimum. And now that many Australians have become more aware of how they contribute to climate change individually, Telstra has given them another tool to reduce their carbon footprints – carbon-neutral phone plans.

While Telstra’s phone plans are now 100 percent carbon neutral, it is essential to remember that your phone itself is not. Therefore, if you wish to offset the carbon footprint caused by using your phone, other steps are necessary beyond purchasing a Telstra carbon-neutral SIM plan.