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Navigating sustainability and the road to net-zero in the channel

Sarwar Khan
Global Head of Sustainability, BT

It’s clear that sustainability and net zero goals are gaining momentum across the channel.

In fact, according to recent research, sustainability is the priority for many channel partners. This marks a significant and positive change that shows the channel is taking a step in the right direction in creating greener pathways for the future and also creating new opportunities for commercial growth.


At BT, we’re committed to sustainability; BT Group has been a leader in climate action for over 30 years. We are A rated by CDP placing BT in the top 1.3% of all organisations providing climate performance data. But we’re not stopping here, we’re devoted to understanding how best to ensure our business practices are sustainable and good for the environment, along with our partners and supply chain too.

BT’s goals

The BT Group Manifesto outlines our commitments as:


  • Becoming a net zero business by the end of March 2031
  • Reducing the carbon intensity of our operations by 87% by 2031
  • Cutting supplier carbon emissions by 42% by 2031

We’re also passionate about ensuring we are working together with our partners and customers to achieve our goals. That’s why we’ve promised to help our customers avoid 60 million tonnes of CO2e by the end of March 2030.


Technology is a clear accelerator towards our net zero goals and the investment in full fibre broadband and 5G networks will pave the way for lower-carbon ways of life and work.


Whilst our goals are crucial to keeping us on the straight and narrow, we also understand that we have work to do, both as a company and as an industry. For example, BT operates the second largest commercial fleet in the UK. Consequently, it’s important we set targets to ensure we can transition to a fully electric or zero-emissions fleet by 2030.

Sustainability challenges in the channel

One of the biggest challenges we have faced when it comes to sustainability is data availability. Data is a crucial factor in the journey to net zero. It allows us to ensure we have dedicated resources, frameworks and teams to best address sustainability concerns. Without it, there can be large knowledge gaps which means a business may end up taking decisions without the right context or evidence to support that course of action.


We’re dedicated to working closely with our partners and suppliers to collaboratively accomplish our shared sustainability goals. One of the main hurdles faced is establishing a culture of sustainability across a business that, traditionally, may have not put much thought into the topic. Some may consider sustainability as part of a ‘tick box’ exercise and it’s our mission to change these principles and promote a sense of urgency through continued education and awareness.


Scope 3 emissions, those that aren’t produced by a company itself but by those it’s indirectly responsible for through its value chain, are also a major challenge. 95% of BT Group’s emissions are Scope 3. To combat this, we’ve been working to set goals with our supply chain providers and partners. In particular, we expect our major suppliers to have sustainability targets in place. If they don’t, we’ll collaborate with them to ensure they can set targets within six months of working with us.


The channel will be facing similar challenges. It’s important to get to grips with the carbon, energy and water impact associated with the products and services that channel organisations sell as customers now want access to this data. That will mean that the channel will have to work across its own supply chain and ensure it’s working with the most sustainable partners. 

The key pillars of accountability

Establishing goals and targets is the first step towards sustainable practices, but without processes in place to keep individuals and businesses on track, sustainability could fall to the bottom of the list of priorities. To avoid this and keep goals at the forefront of business leaders’ minds, the following pillars of accountability should be taken on board.


Being transparent with customers, partners and employees is paramount to a successful sustainability practice. Businesses can ensure transparency through structured processes, KPIs and regular reporting.


At BT, we hold ourselves accountable through our annual report and ESG addendum. The addendum outlines our key targets and how we’re tracking, so that everyone can see the progress made and where we need to improve. 

Ensuring you have the right portfolio

The channel plays a key role in helping the UK accelerate to net zero. It has significant reach and holds a lot of trust. Channel companies should be providing customers with sustainable IT products through a portfolio of solutions including collaboration tools, digital infrastructure for cloud services and IoT to help customers decarbonise their operations at pace and scale. 


As with other business priorities, communication is vital. Channel companies must communicate clearly with investors, employees and customers on sustainability benchmarks as well as flagging any problems or concerns as soon as possible. This not only holds all players accountable but ensures trustworthiness and can help to strengthen relationships across the industry. 

Looking ahead to a greener future

Sustainability is moving towards the top of the agenda for most channel companies as they look to lower their own carbon footprint and showcase to customers their commitment.


We understand that progress towards a net zero future brings complex challenges and to guarantee a more sustainable pathway, all players must work collaboratively and hold each other accountable. If we don’t, we’re putting the future of the channel in danger. 


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