Blog: Climate change hurts UK PLC says BT – it’s our call to heed the warning

It’s good to talk, as BT’s famous advertising slogan goes, and usually when big British brands talk, people listen. If you’d been listening to the outgoing telecoms giant’s chief exec […]

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By Vicky Ellis

It’s good to talk, as BT’s famous advertising slogan goes, and usually when big British brands talk, people listen.

If you’d been listening to the outgoing telecoms giant’s chief exec earlier this week, as I was, you’d have got the message loud and clear that things need to change.

Scotsman Ian Livingston (who announced he’s quitting to become a trade minister of all things just days after his speech) was blunt: we can’t continue gobbling up the planet’s resources at breakneck speed.

An hour or two earlier, If you’d been tapping into the press briefing I was at, you’d have discovered exactly why that message was so blunt.

Climate change is biting BT in the backside. How? Kevin Moss, the man heading up BT’s Net Good programme to cut three times more carbon than it emits, says it’s in more ways than one.

As he told the press sat round the meeting table, “Our business is already being impacted by climate change,” BT’s Chief Sustainability Officer Niall Dunne nodded vigorously.

Kevin explained that it affects network costs, customer service and fault rates: “If you look at our 2012/2013 annual report – and this is not our sustainability report – it featured snow as one of the reasons we had problems with our network faults.”

Niall Dunne added that climate change is “literally washing through our network” – Not Good in a fast-moving telecoms world with plenty of competition.

To get around future problems they’re having the plan their network based on what the flood plains could be like in 50 to 100 years, “because otherwise that shows up as a customer service nightmare”, he said.

Such utter pragmatism, planning for the worst outcome, makes complete sense. Mitigating risk is a phrase bandied about a lot, especially when it comes to energy. As BT’s example shows, businesses ignore climate change at their peril – or risk phoning home from under several feet of water.