Virgin Media O2: Carbon, Circularity, and Communities
One year after the launch of Virgin Media O2’s robust sustainability strategy – The Better Connections Plan, the telecommunication company celebrates with some impressive environmental strides as well as taking action to address the digital divide.
This progress is in line with the company’s overarching commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across its operations, products, and supply chain by the end of 2040 – a mission validated by the reputable Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The SBTi’s approval reinforces that Virgin Media O2’s sustainability plan complies with contemporary climate science, making an active contribution to keeping global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees.
The Better Connections Plan encompasses three core principles – Carbon, Circularity, and Communities – each with its notable advancements over the past year.
Under the Carbon principle, Virgin Media O2 has notably decreased carbon emissions (Scopes 1 and 2) by 29% in 2022, using its 2020 emissions as a baseline. Additionally, the provider’s products and services have prevented over 29 million tonnes of carbon from entering the Earth’s atmosphere. This has been accomplished via Internet of Things (IoT) applications such as smart metering, which have fostered energy-efficient homes and businesses across the UK. The company’s services also support more sustainable living, such as working from home and using video calling software, thus cutting down on carbon emissions from vehicles or public transport.
Virgin Media O2 stands as the first UK teleco company to be acknowledged by the Carbon Trust for its net zero plan, earning the Advancing Level of the organisation’s Route to Net Zero Standard. To further support carbon reduction, it has introduced over 70 electric vans and pledged to electrify its entire fleet by 2030.
The Circularity principle emphasises recycling and reuse. Virgin Media O2 has backed consumers in carrying out 2.4 million ‘circular actions’ in 2022, pushing towards its 2025 goal of 10 million. These actions include promoting ‘like new’ second-hand devices and encouraging customers to utilise O2 Recycle for sustainable tech disposal. In 2022 alone, O2 Recycle saw over 250,000 devices recycled, none of which ended up in landfill whilst paying out more than £36 million to its customers. Additionally, since 2014, over 10 million routers and set-top boxes have been refurbished and reused.
The company also launched a £500,000 initiative, the Time after Time e-waste fund, which provides grants of up to £75,000 to community groups across the UK to tackle e-waste and to promote circularity.
Under the Communities principle, Virgin Media O2 has aided over 1.5 million individuals in enhancing their digital skills and confidence to navigate the internet through its strategic partnerships with Good Things Foundation and Internet Matters. To celebrate this impressive achievement, the company has set its sights higher, aiming to assist six million people by 2025, a significant increase from its original two-million goal.
In addition, its partnership with Good Things Foundation has gone a step further by opening the UK’s 1,000th National Databank Hub. This initiative has provided more than 70,000 free O2 SIM cards and 50,000 free O2 data vouchers to people in need.
The company’s Community Calling initiative in partnership with environmental charity, Hubbub, has also rehomed over 15,000 smartphones combined with free data, texts and calls for those who need them. Virgin Media O2 employees nationwide have leveraged their annual paid volunteering days to support community projects, aiding over 120,000 people in the process.
These accomplishments have been shaped and directed by the Youth Advisory Council, established last year. This diverse group of Gen Z activists serves as advisors to Virgin Media O2, ensuring its sustainability strategy meets the needs of future generations.