Australia’s Carbon Neutral Telcos

Environmental concerns attract customers to Carbon Neutral companies

With the realities of Climate Change becoming more and more apparent, companies are doing what they can to cut down on their carbon footprint. This is a great idea, not only for the environment, but for their bottom line. As consumers become more aware about how industrialization impacts our world, they become more and more inclined to patronize businesses that take steps to keep the earth as clean and green as can be.

Telecommunication firms are no different – they, too, contribute to Climate Change. As a result, some Australian telcos have begun taking steps towards being carbon neutral – if not Net Zero carbon.

But what do these terms even mean? In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between carbon neutral and net zero, and how they both aim for similar goals. We’ll also discuss which telcos have taken the bold step to reduce their carbon footprints in Australia.

Carbon Neutral vs Net Zero

Climate Change is trending, and for good reason. Recent natural disasters haven’t seemed so natural, and people have become more aware of how human activity affects our environment.

But trends also come along with catchy phrases which sometimes muddy the waters. In this case, “Carbon Neutral” and “Net Zero”, two terms with different meanings, have become interchangeable for so many. We published an article clarifying their differences, but here’s a quick excerpt to get you up to speed:

  • Carbon Neutral refers to an offsetting approach, where a company removes an amount of carbon from the atmosphere that is equal to the carbon the company produces, in an effort to balance Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. To do this, companies can purchase carbon credits, which is essentially permission from the government to emit GHG in an effort to offset its effects. The other option is to support renewable energy initiatives of other entities. Neither of these require the company to actually reduce its carbon emissions, but rather just offset its emissions by reducing GHG from entities outside of the company.
  • Net Zero carbon refers to efforts to actually reduce the GHG emitted by the company, rather than just buying carbon credits and/or supporting renewable energy initiatives of other entities. For instance, if a company’s logistics involves transporting goods in large trailers 10 times a week, a Net Zero approach would require that company to cut those trips in half and perhaps invest in renewable energy initiatives to offset the 5 trips per week that they now use for transporting goods. After all, the company cannot stop transporting goods, as that would mean an end to their business.

Why some consumers prefer telcos that reduce their carbon footprints

There are a number of factors that go into a consumer’s decision to purchase a particular SIM plan or remain a loyal customer to a particular telco. To simplify things, we suggest that customers search for extrinsic and/or intrinsic value in a phone plan or telco when deciding whether to patronize that telco.

Consumers who are more concerned with extrinsic value typically rely on the basics, which involve the plan’s inclusions and cost. For instance, how much data does the SIM plan include? How wide is the telco’s coverage and are their download speeds fast? Are the voice and text inclusions unlimited? Is there a self-service app? When compared to other plans, does the price present a good deal? The answers to such questions are what determine the plan’s and telco extrinsic value, which is all some consumers need to become that telco’s customer.

Other consumers, however, look deeper into the telco for intrinsic value. Is the telco active in the community? What are they doing for the environment? Are they charitable? Are their service representatives friendly and moral? Affirmative answers to such questions could add intrinsic value for some consumers and quickly turn them into customers.

Because customers who give more weight to intrinsic value are tapping into morality and emotions, they tend to be more loyal than customers who are simply looking for the best deal (extrinsic value) regardless of which telco offers that.

These days, an increasing proportion of people feel strongly (and for good reason) about the state of the environment. This intrinsic motivation can drive a customer to a Carbon Neutral or Net Zero telco without much thought about whether the plan offers the best deal.

Telcos are very much aware of this ongoing shift, and some are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints.

Australian telcos that are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints

So far, four Australian telcos have either been declared Carbon Neutral or are taking steps towards that status:

  • Telstra
    The largest telco in Australia was certified Carbon Neutral in their operations in July 2020. According to Telstra, they received their certification by “Purchasing 2.3 million carbon offset credits from projects that avoid, reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere”. Telstra plan to reduce their overall emissions by 50 percent within a decade. Telstra offer a wide variety of Internet, phone, and SIM only plans to both personal and business customers. The telco currently has the widest 5G coverage in the country.
  • Belong
    In December of 2019, Belong was certified Carbon Neutral even before their parent company Telstra. In 2020, the MVNO also announced that their support will become fully digital, a step that will no doubt maintain carbon neutrality or, perhaps, even push towards Net Zero carbon. Belong offer month-to-month SIM only plans on the Telstra network, as well as NBN broadband Internet plans.
  • TPG Telecom
    TPG Telecom became Australia’s third largest telco after merging with Vodafone last year. The telco could become Net Zero carbon soon, given their announcement that all of their electricity will be sourced by renewable energy by 2025. TPG offer NBN and Internet plans, along with prepaid SIM only plans. Vodafone offer a range of prepaid and postpaid month-to-month SIM only plans as well, including their newly launched Ultra+ SIM only plan with Unlimited high speed 5G data.
  • Felix Mobile
    Felix Mobile are TPG Telecom’s newly launched fully-digital MVNO which is already Carbon Neutral. The sub brand telco source 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy. Felix offer just one prepaid SIM Only plan and nothing else, using Vodafone’s 3G/4G network. However, Felix Mobile’s SIM plan is unique as it includes unlimited data at just $35 per recharge. Note, however, that although the plan comes with unlimited data, download speeds are capped at 20Mbps.

Conclusion

As solid as Planet Earth may seem, it is still susceptible to abuse. With knowledge about how our actions can create carbon footprints that harm the environment, seeing Australian telcos aiming for Carbon Neutral goals is certainly welcome news.

Customers who consider Carbon Neutral or Net Zero qualities to increase the value of a telco and their plans will welcome this news the most. But we are a telco review site, so we must be realistic and dig into the extrinsic value of what these telcos plans actually offer.

For instance, Felix is the only telco currently operating on 100 percent renewable energy, but is their $35 unlimited plan Australia’s best value? If you use 35GB of mobile data each month (or more) – the answer is probably yes. However, Vodafone’s coverage is an issue for some customers – especially if they live in more rural areas of Australia. It has been hard to find an unlimited plan in Australia for the last 15 years after regulator lawsuits against telcos for misleading advertising on the subject, but Felix have managed it at such a cheap price (although download speeds cannot exceed 20Mbps).

That being said, perhaps Felix offer a valuable plan, whether you consider their Carbon Neutral status or not. But do you need this much data at a time when a lot of the country is locked down and using Wifi? The answer depends on your needs, and that’s why it’s best to weigh all factors when considering your next SIM plan.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.