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Portrait Res Witschi



Responsible for sustainable digitalisation

“Swisscom is already climate positive.”

Many large Swiss companies aim to be climate neutral in the next five years. Swisscom and its customers, on the other hand, have been climate positive since 2017. Res Witschi, responsible for sustainable digitalisation at Swisscom, explains what this means and how Swisscom is committed to climate protection.

Lilia Veresinska, 17 June 2021

Spring this year was not only marked by COVID-19, but also impacted by huge weather frustration. Rain and cold temperatures meant that enjoying dinner on the terrace was a rare opportunity for restaurant-goers. April and May were the coldest in 20 years in many places in Switzerland. In general, however, this spring was only marginally colder than the usual weather for the time of year and annual average temperatures have nevertheless increased significantly over the last decades.

The vast majority of scientists acknowledge that the rise in average temperatures is caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and will continue to worsen in the second half of this century. While politicians argue about how climate protection can be effectively financed and implemented, companies began to take action long ago. And Swisscom is right at the forefront.

Res, Swisscom has been climate positive for about a year now. What exactly does this mean?

Including its supply chain, Swisscom emitted around 300,000 tonnes of CO₂ last year. This is roughly the same amount of greenhouse gases produced every year by the 65,000 inhabitants of the city of Lugano. At the same time, our products and services have helped our customers to save significantly more CO2 as a result of the increase in the use of Work Smart services caused by the pandemic. These savings exceed our emissions, which is why we are more than just climate neutral – we are, together with our customers, climate positive. And I am very proud of that.

In 2020 Swisscom, together with its customers, saved 2.87 times more CO2 than it emitted.

What is the new Work Smart?

The amount of CO₂ saved thanks to Work Smart has increased due to COVID-19, so the methodology is not yet adapted to the new reality of Work Smart. We are in the process of working on the methodology and taking this opportunity to review and raise the climate goals.

How have we done it? Are we ‘buying ourselves green’ with CO₂ certificates?

Not at all. Products such as Office 365 and Webex allow our customers to attend virtual conferences and work from home, reducing the need for business trips. Thanks also to our LoRa network and machine-2-machine solutions, businesses today are increasingly optimising their vehicles fleets or intelligently managing their office buildings, electrical networks and traffic. The ICT sector as a whole has the potential of reducing global CO₂ emissions by up to 16%.

Our own energy consumption has actually continued to increase over the past three years. Hasn't something gone wrong there?

While our energy consumption has slightly increased, we have reduced our CO₂ emissions. The increase in consumption is the result of the expansion of our networks and data centres. Although we are consuming a little more energy than before, we are at the same time transporting a much higher data volume over the networks and processing it in the data centres. Our CO₂ emissions have been dropping for years because we are using our buildings and vehicles more efficiently. And since 2010, all of our electricity has been generated from fully renewable energies.

Swisscom continued to boost its energy efficiency through savings and improvements despite total energy consumption increasing, and it even exceeded its target by achieving a 38% energy efficiency increase. The goal was to achieve 35% between 2016 and 2020.

What is Swisscom doing to reduce its own energy consumption?

By 2020, we had increased our energy efficiency by 38% compared to 2016, exceeding our target of 35%. A major factor in this are energy efficiency measures in our networks. For years, our switching centres have been cooled with fresh air only (see the Mistral cooling system project). We also use a similar technology by the name of Taifun for our mobile base stations. Swisscom also meets the highest energy efficiency requirements at its data centres. With the migration to All IP, consumption for fixed network telephony has reduced by 50% in total despite the additional consumption of voice-only customers. This and many other measures are helping us to continue to significantly increase our energy efficiency in the coming years.

The cooling system for the Wankdorf data centre Bern feeds waste heat into the Bern district heating network. On hot days, the system cools the building using recirculated air without requiring any compressors or refrigerants. If it becomes really hot, cooling is enhanced by rainwater evaporation. 

Committed to improving sustainability for 20 years

Swisscom first introduced its environmental management system back in 1997. Just one year later, Swisscom successfully completed its ISO 14001 certification. Since 2010, sustainability has been part of our corporate strategy. In 2014, in Wankdorf, Swisscom opened the most efficient data centre in Switzerland. Today, Swisscom offers 50 products with particular sustainability benefits, including the energy-efficient TV-Box and Internet router for example. In 2020, Swisscom was named the world’s “Most Sustainable Company in the Telecommunication Industry” at World Finance magazine’s Sustainability Awards.

Carbon calculations: Sources and background information

Savings are based on Swisscom product user data and models that calculate how the use of these products impacts savings in greenhouse gases. The models have been developed in cooperation with the myclimate foundation and are continuously monitored and developed further. The results of the calculations are verified annually by the SGS inspection, verification, testing and certification company. More details about Swisscom's climate impact and activities are provided in the climate report.

Swisscom Climate Report 2020 (PDF)

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Profile

Res Witschi is responsible for sustainable digitalisation at Swisscom and promotes and champions initiatives that use digital technologies to support Switzerland’s sustainability targets. An ETH environmental science graduate, he spent almost 14 years as a sustainability project manager and six as Head of Sustainability at Swisscom before taking on his current role.

     



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