Sustainability – a way of business says MTN South Africa

A hot topic at this year’s COP 17 is the fate of the Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement that aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 5%¹ from 1990 levels over a five year period that comes to an end in 2012.

November 30, 2011

A hot topic at this year’s COP 17 is the fate of the Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement that aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 5%¹ from 1990 levels over a five year period that comes to an end in 2012. For South Africa however, this target is much higher where government has set their own target of reducing emissions by 34% below business as usual by 2020 (that’s a reduction of 0.2% of national emissions) – according to a recent KPMG report². So what does this mean for the country, who is responsible and how should they go about aiding governments objectives?

Says Karel Pienaar; MD of MTN SA; “The ICT sector is globally acknowledged as a key role player in addressing the impact of industries on the environment, and as a responsible corporate citizen, MTN is acutely conscious of the effects of climate change, as it has a real impact on its business, customers, local communities and of course government objectives.”

Businesses need to get involved in climate change to not only assist in achieving the goals set out by the Kyoto Protocol, but to ensure that they are having a minimal negative impact on the environment. Continues Pienaar; “At MTN we have been doing, and continue to do, just this. For us as a business, sustainability and focusing on the effects of climate change is about utilising our services and solutions to generate economic benefit for our stakeholders, while responsibly managing the impact of our business activities on the environment.”

To this end, MTN has embarked on a number of initiatives to ensure that it minimises its impact on the environment. “We have invested R22m on the construction of a 2MW methane gas powered tri-generation plant at our head office in 14th Avenue, Fairland.” Methane is a clean-burning, sustainable gas with a reliable and consistent supply. The tri-generation plant generates electricity and through a second re-absorption chiller cycle using the waste heat, produces water for the air-conditioning systems in all the buildings on the campus. The plant enables MTN to manage potential energy shortages and reduce power consumption, while increasing savings and initiating a sustainability model to reduce its carbon footprint.

This proactive approach to generating electricity has resulted in various other positive ‘green’ spin-offs for the organisation. The plant produces an estimated 800kW of cooling for free, resulting in further savings in the building’s air conditioning processes. The plant, which is the first of its kind in Africa, also provides power to the MTN campus, including their data and test switch centres. Continues Pienaar; “We are proud at the fact that our tri-generation plant has been approved as a UN Certified Emission Reduction carbon project, through its innovative efficient design that saves 17 500 tons of carbon per annum.”

MTN has further embarked on a massive “Greening 14th Avenue” initiative, to green the campus at the MTN head office. This has been done through the installation of energy meters throughout the head office, the installation of motion detectors that only illuminate when movement is detected, painting the roofs with solar reflective paint to improve insulation and installing ultra-violet film on exterior-facing windows and glass doors to decrease air-conditioning usage, and turn off air-conditioning after-hours.

“We are in the process of getting our head office accredited with the US standard Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) institution, which will make MTN the first company in South Africa to receive this much sought after accreditation.”

Furthermore, MTN have network sites across South Africa that are solar, wind or biogas (gas from agricultural waste) powered, as well as more that are efficiently engineered to use hydrogen fuel cells, deep cycle batteries etc. All of this is designed to ensure that MTN ultimately reduce their dependence on coal or fossil fuel use, thereby reducing their carbon emissions. 

At face value, the costs to “greening” might appear prohibitive. However, the massive savings that MTN has made since initiating the ‘green campus’ project further strengthens the business case for sustainability. In the last eight months, MTN has saved 37% in energy consumption, in light of the greening efforts that we have been putting in place.

“Going into 2012, sustainability and a focus on climate change should be considered a valuable investment for businesses, as it provides not only for the present, but for the future of our country and business landscape and of course contributes strongly to objectives set out in political spheres globally,” concludes Pienaar.