Reducing our carbon footprint: Telstra's initiatives

Reducing our carbon footprint

We are Australia's largest Climate Active certified organisation.

What’s a carbon footprint?

Like most forms of economic activity, providing telecommunications services results in greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (PDF, 399KB) (sometimes referred to as carbon emissions) are made up of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other gases, which trap heat close to the surface of the Earth, and contribute to global warming (climate change).

For Telstra, a massive percentage of our emissions arise from the energy we use to power our networks because Australia’s energy grid supply is still predominantly driven by fossil fuels.

Another big source of emissions comes from building those networks, including emissions associated with the production of steel, concrete and other materials to build telecommunications equipment. 

It’s no surprise that these emissions add up, given that Telstra’s mobile network alone covers more than 2.5 million square kilometres – that’s 1 million more square kilometres than any other mobile network! 

What are we doing to reduce our carbon footprint?

We announced three climate change ambitions in 2020, all aimed at minimising our impact on climate change:

  1. Reduce our absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2030.
  2. Enable renewable energy generation equivalent to 100% of our consumption by 2025.
  3. Offset the emissions from our operations.

We achieved our first ambition in July 2020. We offset the emissions from our operations, achieving Climate Active’s largest certification in Australia.

We’ve put in place plans to reduce our absolute carbon emissions, and have invested in carbon offset credits to counteract the emissions that remain after our reductions.

Our carbon offset credits are sourced globally, from projects related to renewable energy, biodiversity and Savannah burning.

To help decarbonise the broader economy, we’re also using technology to unlock smarter and more efficient ways of working and living.

See Telstra Climate Change Position Statement [PDF - 24kB]


What does this mean for you?

In a nutshell - when you use our telecommunications services, you don’t have to worry about emissions from our networks and operations contributing to your carbon footprint, because we have offset these emissions - and at no extra cost to you.

We are building a connected future so everyone can thrive

 We know there’s more work to do - we’re continuing to look for new ways to have an impact, by:

  • raising awareness of climate-related risks among our people and suppliers, and helping them reduce their emissions
  • encouraging the uptake of digital technologies and services that drive low-carbon economic growth

We’ve answered some of your frequently asked questions

This means that we invest in projects (by purchasing offsets) that prevent or remove emissions from the atmosphere equivalent to the volume of emissions resulting from our business operations.

We are certified against the requirements of the Climate Active scheme operated by the Australian Government.

Each month we:

  1. calculate the total amount of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions that are offset in support of bringing our operations to net zero emissions (as certified by Climate Active);
  2. estimate your “share” of our emissions, based on your estimated data usage, as a percentage of total data used by all Telstra customers; and
  3. calculate how much passenger vehicle travel (expressed as kilometres travelled by an “average” car) would give rise to the same amount of emissions as your estimated “share” of our emissions, using average emissions rates (kg CO2 / km) for the total fleet of Australian passenger vehicles.

For its Climate Active certification, Telstra brings to net zero (neutral) all of “scope 1”, all of “scope 2” and a portion of “scope 3” GHG emissions and includes all emissions arising from our operations as defined in the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Organisation Standard. For this purpose:

  • Scope 1: GHG emissions are emissions that Telstra directly puts into the atmosphere. Examples include GHG emissions released due to diesel used in generators at exchanges and the fuel consumed by our vehicle fleet.
  • Scope 2: GHG emissions occur from the generation of electricity used by Telstra. These emissions physically occur where the electricity is generated (i.e. at power plants) and are attributed to Telstra based on how much electricity we use. The majority of our Scope 2 GHG emissions arise from electricity used to power our network and to carry the data that our customers send and receive; and
  • Scope 3: GHG emissions are indirect emissions that occur as a consequence of activities undertaken by Telstra from sources that are not directly operated by Telstra. Examples of our Scope 3 GHG emissions that we don’t offset include GHG emissions caused by the manufacture and distribution of end-user hardware and devices (e.g. mobile handsets and modems), emissions arising from energy used by customers (e.g. in their homes) to charge or power those devices. Scope 3 emissions that we do offset offset include emissions caused by employee air travel.

Climate Active is a partnership between the Australian Government and Australian businesses to drive voluntary climate action based on strict standards as to measurement and abatement.

Telstra does not offset emissions associated with:

  • manufacture and distribution of end-user hardware and devices (e.g. mobile handsets and modems);
  • transportation and distribution of those physical devices;
  • energy used by customers (e.g. in their homes) to charge or power those devices;
  • the disposal of those devices;
  • our proportionate investments in other companies – e.g. minority investments by Telstra Ventures in software companies; and
  • third party content accessed by customers – e.g. emissions caused by the creation of content for Netflix streaming – before that content enters Telstra’s network (which extends across the globe including the United States).

Because these emissions occur outside of our business, they are more difficult to measure and control. We are investing heavily in understanding these emissions better, and encouraging other businesses in the supply chain to both account for and abate the emission that they cause. The emissions intensity of energy used by our customers is of particular interest to us.

We have estimated your “share” of our emissions based on an estimate of how much data you use, as a proportion of total data used by all of our customers:

  • Total data: The total data figure includes all data passing through Telstra’s network including from mobile services (e.g. via mobile phone towers) and fixed services such as a broadband connection (e.g.via cables, exchanges, NBN, etc).
  • How much data you use:

In relation to our mobile networks, your data usage for the month is measured directly, and then classified into one of seven usage “bands” (encompassing a usage range).  We use the bottom value of the usage range for that band to estimate your share of our emissions.

In relation to fixed broadband data usage, we have used your average monthly data usage for the three months ending 31 March 2020.  If you joined Telstra after 31 March 2020, we have not counted your data usage from fixed broadband.

This methodology is adopted because we don’t directly measure the emissions associated with your personal usage of our services, but we do measure your data usage.  And most of the emissions that we offset from our operations are a function of data usage.

The carbon intensity (or GHG intensity) of our operations (expressed on a per GB basis) is calculated as follows:

This calculation uses GHG emissions reported in Telstra’s 2020 calendar year (See our Climate Active PDS) and these are based on FY19 GHG emissions which was used as a representative year to estimate 2020 full calendar year. Data traffic is based on FY19 calendar year to match the emissions reporting year.

We then take the GHG intensity of your share of the emissions from our operations and express that in kilometres.  In effect, the emissions of our operations are estimated at 0.93km per GB (equivalent).

In Australia, the passenger vehicle fleet has an average GHG intensity of more than 200 grams of CO2 per kilometre travelled.

All telecommunications need energy to power radio towers, servers etc.  No matter where you buy your telecommunications from, it is powered by the same energy grid.

The energy grid is supplied by power stations, some of which produce carbon emissions. Emissions associated with the supply of electricity is the dominant source of emissions for our business.

Because we can't control which energy source physically supplied to our business, we have committed to enabling renewable energy generation in Australia and in our other business locations  equivalent to 100% of the energy we consume by 2025.

We have already underpinned major renewable energy generation projects in Australia (through our Power Purchase Agreements at Murra Warra and Emerald). These produce enough energy to power over 100,000 homes.