May 01, 2013
Chief Executive Officer, Sprint Nextel Corp.
Remarks presented May 1, 2013, at Ceres Conference 2013
Good morning. Thank you, Ann, for the kind introduction, and thank you Mindy for inviting me to be here today…and for your ongoing involvement in Sprint’s external stakeholder panel. Your unbiased feedback and your expertise are helping Sprint to become a more effective leader in sustainability.
Today, Sprint’s operating priorities are balanced, between economic ones and our company’s impact on people, products and the planet. Henry David Thoreau asked, “What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”
Through our partnership with Ceres we’re engaging stakeholders such as NGOs, investors, business partners and academia to inform our decisions. Sprint’s entire leadership team met with our stakeholder panel about a year ago to help us identify opportunities to further our efforts.
There is perhaps no industry or technology which has more profoundly affected global change than wireless. Today, the U.S. has 314 million people, yet 328 million cellphones. We study trends in our business. Dan Quayle said, “We are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy, but that could change.” By next year, the number of mobile subscriptions is expected to exceed the world’s population of 7 billion. It is predicted that by 2017, 10 exabytes of data per month will travel over mobile networks. To put this in perspective, the total number of words uttered by all human beings in the history of our planet is but 5 exabytes.
Wireless-based solutions have already improved how we provide healthcare, educate our children, drive our vehicles, bank, shop and pay for services.
The Red Cross, working with various wireless service providers and vendors, recently launched a program to deliver warnings on disease outbreaks, flood and fires to the citizens of Sierra Leone via text messages. Haiti is already using a similar system. The Red Cross also uses the GPS embedded in the phones to monitor which of the affected areas are heavily populated and in greatest need, helping to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its aid operations.
One of the most promising innovations in wireless is machine-to-machine connections, or “M2M.” In its simplest form, M2M can be described as technology that can support machines connecting to the Internet and/or to each other (in other words, humans aren’t necessary). An estimated 100 million M2M devices today is expected to grow to 2.1 billion over the next 10 years. By 2020, M2M is expected to be a trillion-dollar market.
One example of how M2M is improving sustainability is connected transportation. Today, only 11% of cars in the U.S. are connected; by 2017, that figure is expected to rise to 80%. Connected vehicles go far beyond providing GPS for navigation, which is helpful in that it gets vehicles from point A to point B most directly, saving fuel.
Think of the time, and gasoline, wasted while looking for a parking spot, sitting in traffic congestion, or waiting at a stoplight when there’s no cross traffic. New connected car solutions promise to solve these headaches by linking the navigation system to apps that can identify nearby parking spaces and make dynamic adjustments to boost the car’s fuel efficiency. Related M2M solutions also could connect traffic light controls to regulate signals based on the number of vehicles at intersections.
For businesses, M2M solutions can improve fleet management, driver safety and route optimization to reduce fuel consumption.
In healthcare, mobile’s promise goes far beyond remote monitoring of home health patients. Last summer, the FDA granted approval for a mobile solution that integrates an app on your phone, a skin patch, and a computer chip no bigger than a grain of sand. The chip is embedded into a pill and swallowed with your regular medication. The chip interacts with your body’s chemistry to produce a voltage which is read by the skin patch, which sends a signal to your mobile phone’s app which tells whether the medicine is working. Like the movie Fantastic Voyage.
Wireless innovation is helping to combat distracted driving. Statistics indicate you are 23 times more likely to crash if texting while driving. A phone with the Sprint Drive First app traveling more than 10 miles per hour automatically locks. No calls. No texts. The caller or texter gets a message that the person they’re trying to reach is driving. All messages can be retrieved later, when the phone and driver are no longer moving.
Other innovative solutions improve accessibility to empower people with disabilities. Sprint is the nation’s premier provider of Telecommunications Relay Services which helps the hard of hearing. We are the official Relay provider in 30 states and for the federal government. Since 1990, we have processed over 2 billion Relay minutes.
We offer multiple wireless applications in one package, the Sprint ID accessibility pack, to meet the needs of the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, or improve the ability for people with visual and cognitive challenges to communicate and access information. For these and other efforts, Sprint recently received the 2013 Disability Matters Marketplace Award.
We’re also mindful of the e-waste this industry creates. Sprint’s Electronic Stewardship Policy employs a full life-cycle approach, from how we buy and sell electronics to how we manage them at the end of their functional lives.
In 2009, Sprint was the first wireless provider to offer a feature-rich wireless phone with eco-friendly attributes, the Samsung Reclaim.
We led the wireless industry into sustainable products by partnering with Underwriters Laboratories Environment and others to develop the first environmental standard for wireless devices. The ULE standards cover materials use, energy consumption, end-of-life management and packaging. Currently, 47 Sprint phones are ULE certified; 14 at the very highest, or platinum, level, the most in the industry.
Sprint has collected 47 million devices for reuse and recycling, nearly 7½ phones per minute. We were the first major U.S. wireless provider to launch a Buyback program that offers an instant, in-store credit of up to $300 for any eligible device, even those from other carriers. For the last two years, Sprint Buyback has been named the industry’s best trade-in program.
Our device take-back programs also are smart business. Rather than buying new devices at a greater cost to the company -- and impact to the environment -- most of the equipment collected is remanufactured and offered to customers as lower-cost, pre-owned, certified devices.
A key aspect of reducing our company’s impact on the environment is in reducing energy consumption. Sprint was the first U.S. telecom company to publicly announce an absolute greenhouse gas emission reduction goal of 20 percent by 2017. Approximately 85 percent of Sprint’s total energy consumption results from operating our networks. Through an innovative program called Network Vision we are consolidating multiple network platforms into one, which will reduce our carbon footprint.
On June 3, the World Wildlife Fund and the Carbon Disclosure Project will release “The 3% Solution,” a report that shows how U.S. companies can realize hundreds of billions in cost-savings by boosting energy-efficiency measures and transitioning to low-carbon energy sources.
At Sprint, Building Automation Systems are already reducing our energy usage by an average of 13%. We are also expanding the use of LEDs, changing cooling systems, using free-air cooling and reflective roofing.
Today, the Environmental Investment Organization (EIO), a climate change and finance think tank based in the UK announced the results of its North America 300 and Global 800 Carbon rankings. I am pleased to report that Sprint ranked 3rd out of the 300 largest companies in North America and 13th among the Global 800, and today was awarded the 2013 Environmental Tracking Carbon Ranking Leader Award by the EIO.
Our paper-reduction efforts have resulted in an estimated savings of more than $64 million dollars since 2007. Sprint saved an estimated 700 tons of paper in just over a year with a unique ecoEnvelope, which allows our customers to receive and remit their payments in the same reusable envelope, plus we strongly encourage e-billing.
Since 2008, we reduced our device package volume by 60%. You’ll notice the boxes are smaller than they used to be, the boxes are made of 100% post-consumer recycled paper, they’re printed with soy-based inks, and they’re 100% recyclable. This equates to saving 68 million water bottles. More of these smaller packages fit on planes and trucks, decreasing our transportation costs. Next week, we will release a white paper which we’d appreciate you reading electronically vs. printing, on Sprint’s packaging improvements which we hope serves as a blueprint for others.
Through our continued collaboration with partners like Ceres and the World Wildlife Fund, government agencies like the EPA, app developers, and our suppliers, we continue to uncover new opportunities and innovations. But challenges remain.
For example, we are seeing cost savings, improvements in employee engagement and long-term brand image attributable to our corporate responsibility efforts. But, when will it become more evident in customer purchase decisions? Our eco-friendly devices sell because they’re good devices. The eco-friendly aspect does not yet seem to be influencing a customers’ choice.
And, when will more investors factor long-range activities into a company’s value? I’ve been on more than 20 quarterly earnings calls at Sprint; not one investor has ever inquired about sustainability. We’re evaluated purely on Shareholder return. Never Stakeholder return. Socially responsible investors tend to be long-term, but short-term investors move the stock price because they are trading regularly. Their time horizon is shorter than the payback period of most sustainability investments, so they’re not particularly interested in what we’re doing in this area. Our plan this year is to reach out to socially-responsible investment firms, in hopes we can interest them in joining our investor base, which might begin to change our dialog with Wall Street.
Winston Churchill made the observation, “He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”
Well, I’m proud to be here among do-gooders, with few vices.
Woody Allen quipped, “There are two kinds of people, good and bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours more.”
You all look well-rested, and you should be proud of it.
We at Sprint still have much to learn, so we appreciate your advice, your support, and your partnership as we all work together to make the Earth a better home.