How we’re setting sustainability in motion Telstra-wide

My primary motivation for moving into the corporate world as a lawyer was getting closer to the outcomes I was influencing.
Justine Rowe · 21 September 2022 · 5 minute read

I’m very purpose-driven and as a leader, my overarching goal is to make a difference – to the people I work with, the business and my community.

I have an amazing opportunity in my role at Telstra to do that. We know we have the power to make a real difference to the planet, and I’ve loved spearheading our drive for sustainability across both our own business and the communities around us.

We’ve already set ambitious climate change targets and are focussed on harnessing technology to improve our environmental performance – through creating green products, services, and operations. Now, we’re looking at how we can have an even greater impact by partnering with others to achieve sustainability outcomes at scale.

Minimising our carbon footprint

We believe that transforming our business and helping our customers to be more sustainable is part of all our roles at Telstra.

Our network engineers work to improve our energy efficiency, our supply chain teams collaborate with suppliers to reduce emissions, our product teams build sustainability into our services and our finance teams incorporate climate risks and track our carbon cost.

We are committed to reducing our emissions by half by 2030 – across our operations, with our suppliers and for our customers when they use our products. However, we recognise the need for action now - so we’ve also become a carbon neutral business. For us, that isn’t enough. We want to continue reducing our impact on the environment as much as possible - and we haven’t held back on taking action, fast.

To begin with, we purchased our first carbon farm to reforest land with native vegetation and extract and store carbon from the atmosphere. In addition, we’re trialling new technology to plant thousands of trees using aerial drones, robotics and telemetry to plant trees, and IoT and artificial intelligence to monitor tree health. In a world first, we are also trialling a probiotic fertiliser produced by maggots, which helps avoid methane emissions otherwise arising from food waste decay.

We’re also focusing on getting more renewable energy sources into the grid by investing in solar wind farms and purchasing carbon offsets. Investing in carbon offsets accelerates climate action, catalyses community activity and supports innovation and uptake of emerging breakthrough technologies and practices.

Introducing green products and services

 Another initiative we’re committed to is building products with awareness of their carbon impact from inception to delivery, and how we can reduce this impact to enable our customers on their own carbon emissions journey.

Our latest modems are made with 85% recycled material and we’ve transformed our packaging to be more environmentally friendly. We’ve reduced packaging for our smart modem by 75% and we are aiming for 100% recyclable packaging by Christmas. We are also using robotics to pack products tightly onto pallets – saving emissions from transport and shipping.

When our product and technology team are devising solutions for customers,  they’re thinking of how to not only meet the customers’ immediate needs but also their broader needs regarding reducing or eliminating carbon emissions. Then our finance and strategy teams will look at the costs on our end from a carbon emissions perspective. We’ve trialled a shadow ‘carbon price’ to embed emissions thinking into decision-making on projects.

What’s really exciting is that at the end of the day, when customers purchase from Telstra, we’re actively helping them meet their own sustainability goals too!

Better together

There’s an opportunity to be part of change everywhere you go in our organisation.

How can we reuse our old technology and equipment, or more effectively run our air conditioner systems? Our Networks and IT team are constantly thinking about this. How can we get people to recycle their old devices? Our retail teams are collecting disused phones and devices through a free, convenient recycling program so our materials get reused. How do we create markets for these recycled materials to reduce our reliance on raw materials? Our product and technology teams are thinking about this in the design of products. There are so many touch points across Telstra where our people can collectively make a difference.

And as we work on extending our influence beyond our own operations by partnering with others to make sustainable changes, I’m excited to help our broader communities with their sustainability journeys too.

We’re using our knowledge to assist others on their carbon-neutral journey, such as St Vincent de Paul Victoria, who we recently supported to be certified as carbon neutral.

Recognition for our efforts!

I have relished the opportunity I’ve been given at Telstra to help affect meaningful change.

It’s what I love most about my role here – engaging with internal and external stakeholders and understanding where we can make a difference in peoples’ lives and for the planet.

Recently Telstra was recognised as a sustainability leader at the 2022 AFR Sustainability Awards. We were also top-ranked in the APAC region by the World Benchmarking Alliance for Digital Inclusion. It is so heartening to know that everything we’re doing is being felt and it has been such a privilege to lead Telstra’s sustainability journey. I am even more excited about the opportunities ahead to take greater action – so watch this space! 

Want to help us build a connected, sustainable future? Explore open roles at Telstra.

By Justine Rowe

Chief Sustainability Officer, Telstra

Justine Rowe is Telstra’s Chief Sustainability Officer.  As a transformational changemaker, Justine and her team are responsible for the delivery of policy advice, stakeholder management and community initiatives across regulatory, sustainability and regional affairs. 

Justine’s experience merges significant experience in legal and external relationship management. In her career at Telstra she has supported former CEO, Andy Penn as Chief of Staff, led the Strategic Policy and Transformation group in Sustainability, External Affairs and Legal, along with leading a global team of lawyers as Legal Executive and Business Partner for Telstra Enterprise. Justine is also proud to be on the board of the Telstra Foundation, Telstra’s purpose-led philanthropic arm. Prior to Telstra, Justine worked in-house in the electricity sector after starting her legal career in private practice. 

Born in Perth, Justine studied law at the University of Western Australia. She has a personal passion to inspire and develop diverse and engaged teams committed to positively impacting our planet, business goals and broader communities.

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