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An Inside Look At TELUS’s Journey To Becoming A Leader In Sustainability

An Inside Look At TELUS's Journey To Becoming A Leader In Sustainability

An Inside Look At TELUS's Journey To Becoming A Leader In Sustainability

Several years ago, when he first proposed switching fluorescent bulbs with LED lights at TELUS, Geoff Pegg admits the reaction was a little skeptical — especially when he said the company might not see payback on the investment for up to seven years.

“The controllers looked at me and said, ‘That doesn’t make a lot of sense,’” Pegg, who serves as TELUS’ Head of Sustainability & Environment, recalled in a recent interview with Salesforce Canada. “I said, ‘I know, but there’s a bigger benefit, because our stakeholder expectations around the environment are rising.’”

He was right then, and he would be right now. According to a recent survey conducted by Salesforce Canada, in fact, the vast majority of Canadians (83%) want to support brands/companies that prioritize values and profit equally. Sustainability, meanwhile, was cited by 84% of Canadians as their top priority coming out of the pandemic.

Making the switch to more energy-efficient lighting is just one example of where Pegg and his team have not only changed the way TELUS operates, but served as a role model in pursuing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) efforts that businesses large and small could emulate.

The evidence is freely available in the company’s most recent sustainability report, Leading The World When The World Needs Us Most. Among other achievements, it shows how TELUS reduced GHG emissions in 2020 by 37% over 2010 levels, and reduced energy consumption over 2010 levels by 17%.

More significantly, TELUS has also announced a Sustainability-Linked Bond Framework, a Canadian first and a plan that ties ambitious targets with financial accountability.

Under the framework, TELUS is reinforcing its previously announced commitment to reducing absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions by 46% by 2030 from 2019. Should TELUS fail to achieve this target, however, the company has pledged to voluntarily offer a premium payment amount or step-up margin amount.

“In some ways it’s a natural evolution of setting targets,” Pegg said, noting there is precedent for similar linked bond frameworks in Europe. “What it is saying is that in terms of sustainability, we’re putting our money where our mouth is.”

Leveraging Technology To Drive Sustainability

Of course, TELUS’s work in ESG is not limited to the environment but spans innovations in health care, empowering Canadians with connectivity and giving back to local communities. That means the volume of sustainability-related data alone can become complex and challenging to manage as it executes on its vision.

This is one of the reasons why TELUS has chosen to adopt Salesforce Sustainability Cloud, a platform that allows organizations to effectively track, analyze and report on such data. This includes the ability to dramatically accelerate carbon accounting audits, track emission levels and empower teams with sophisticated dashboards.

Pegg said TELUS, which currently has the platform going through user acceptance testing, sees Sustainability Cloud as a means to achieve greater efficiency and allow its teams to focus on what they do best.

“If you’re a project manager executing a lighting retrofit project or a water conservation project, you can spend more time doing that because you’re not spending time sifting through and seeking data,” he said. “Ultimately what we really anticipate is not only the ability to more efficiently access the data but to leverage it to help us with our decision making.”

The potential data points are manyfold. For instance, 80% of TELUS’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the power required for its buildings and network. It can turn to its utility bills to track usage, but it has more than 4,000 buildings of various kinds, Pegg said. Some might be a 20-storey office, and others could be a switch stationed at the side of a road.

“Getting that amount of data across the country, coordinating all that, formalizing it from a weather impact perspective, working through landlords — there’s a lot of time and complexity to that.”

TELUS will also look to Sustainability Cloud to help automate processes in other areas, such as tracking purchases of electronic equipment and areas of its operation that have to meet regulatory requirements.

ESG Policies And Practices To Consider

TELUS blends strategic use of technology such as Sustainability Cloud with corporate policies and practices that keep ESG at the heart of the organization’s purpose. Sustainability performance is directly linked to employee pay, for instance, via a scorecard known as its Social Capitalism Index that reflects its progress in meeting targets.

“Customer metrics matter too, of course, but as a whole, there’s investment in terms of compensation so that everyone has skin in the game,” Pegg said.

Part of the process of educating TELUS employees and shifting the culture has involved Pegg’s mantra of a “triple win.” This is the notion that doing the right things can not only have a great impact on the planet but for the customer experience and the organization’s bottom line. Those LED lights he had proposed, for instance, have wound up paying dividends in terms of reduced utility costs.

Making these kinds of strides isn’t just something large businesses like TELUS can pursue, Pegg added. Small and medium-sized businesses across Canada have just as much an opportunity to move forward with an ESG strategy. The Salesforce Canada research echoed this, where almost two in three, or 62%, said brands/companies have the greatest responsibility to address climate change.

An SMB could begin its research by looking up the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, whose targets cross everything from poverty to climate change. More locally, Global Compact Network Canada (whose board Pegg sits on), is dedicated to unifying and building the capacity of the Canadian private sector to embrace sustainable business practices.

Overall, though, Pegg said ESG is all about leadership, and committing to long-term action.

“It starts by looking at it and asking yourself what is your purpose — why are you in business?” he said. “Hopefully it is not only to make money, but also to solve problems that exist in the world. This goes beyond the customer’s problems — it’s problems that reflect the values you share with your customers. It’s really everyone’s responsibility.”

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