As a society, we are increasingly in contact with each other, thanks to the internet and our mobile phones. VolkerWessels Telecom is responsible for the networks that make this connectivity possible, from underground copper and fiber optic cables to antennas and transmission towers. The company is certified on level 4 of the CO2 Performance Ladder.
First things first: VolkerWessels Telecom is part of the listed construction company VolkerWessels. The operational management of the international group consists of three important components: real estate development, infrastructure and energy and telecom infrastructure. Sustainability is high on the agenda of all these activities. VolkerWessels even decided to link the sustainability performance within the company to bank lending. The number of sustainability goals achieved determines the interest discount or surcharge that the company enjoys. A first in the construction sector.
Improve the quality of life
The sustainability objectives of VolkerWessels fit in seamlessly with the overall vision and mission of the company: improving the quality of life. More and more people are moving to the city (in 2050 70 percent of the population is expected to live in the city) and that is creating more and more challenges. Maintaining and increasing the quality of life is essential, the company states.
This overarching vision can be applied 1-on-1 to the tasks and responsibilities of VolkerWessels Telecom, says their CSR specialist Herbert Aalbers: “Connectivity and digital solutions are indispensable in tackling the challenges we face in the urban environment : energy, waste, safety, health and mobility. At VolkerWessels Telecom we design, build and maintain the infrastructure that makes these solutions possible. ”
To give some examples: smart grids are indispensable in the energy transition, waste containers are increasingly equipped with sensors (which let them know when they are full) and also infrastructure and cars can "talk" to each other more often. “This is how you use connectivity to tackle urban challenges. In other words: our activities indirectly contribute to a better quality of life, more sustainability and CO2 reduction."
CO2 emissions down
But that does not mean that VolkerWessels Telecom is leaning further back. Sustainability and CO2 reduction are also important themes within our own business operations. "That is the case within all VolkerWessels companies," says Aalbers. “We pay a lot of attention to it because we want to minimize the impact of our work on the environment. We are primarily concerned with the positive effect, not with obtaining certificates. They mainly provide the evidence and give direction to our strategy."
VolkerWessels Telecom delved into its own co2 footprint and soon discovered that the greatest opportunities in the field of CO2 reduction could be found in the mobility corner. "Roughly 90 percent of all our CO2 emissions come from our fleet," says Aalbers. "That was no surprise: we simply have to install and maintain national infrastructure, so our employees travel all over the country."
Aalbers has been actively reducing CO2 for three years now and the first results are positive. About four years ago, the company's CO2 emissions were still above 10,000 tons per year. Nowadays that is between 8,000 and 9,000 tons. In 2018, absolute CO2 emissions had decreased by 18 percent, compared to 2014. "But we don't attach much importance to absolute numbers," Aalbers nuances. “If the work suddenly decreases, our CO2 emissions naturally also decrease. And it goes up when we suddenly receive more assignments."
In the area of mobility, the focus is therefore on fewer CO2 emissions per FTE. The company focused on various measures. For example, cars and vans are nowadays equipped with devices that record driving behavior. Aalbers: "We will turn that into a competition, complete with cake for the most efficient driver of the quarter."
More importantly: VolkerWessels Telecom purchased new software that can be used to plan mobility movements and routes in a smarter way. Commercial vehicles were also equipped with sensors, so that they emit a GPS signal at all times. "This way we can link assignments to technicians who are already in the area," says Aalbers. This led to substantial results. For example, the company also focused on video conferencing; nowadays every branch has at least one screen for video calling. "We calculated it in 2017: that saved around 47,000 kilometers traveled per month."
Removing unnecessary kilometers so. And VolkerWessels Telecom is becoming increasingly ambitious in this. For example, commercial vehicles are now supplied at night, so that engineers can immediately get to their job in the morning. A big difference with the old method, says Aalbers: “In the past, all engineers (and therefore all company cars) came to the office to collect project folders and materials. That is a lot of extra kilometers."
More sustainable thanks to connectivity
In the future, Aalbers expects to further increase sustainability in the area of mobility. Hopefully electric-powered commercial vehicles will also be added in the future. But then the technology must become a little more mature, he says: “Our buses are often heavily loaded. In addition, our engineers often work in places where no charging points can be found. The range of electric vehicles must therefore continue to grow."
Until then, VolkerWessels Telecom will continue to focus on even smarter and more efficient driving movements. Aalbers expects connectivity (that which VolkerWessels Telecom makes possible) to play an increasingly important role in this. “Think of sensors that warn us when a cable or mast needs maintenance, so that we only do maintenance when it is really needed. With such solutions, we (and other companies) can become even more sustainable.”