With global environmental issues becoming a matter of concern for all countries of the world, small startups, as well as corporates, are paying more attention to the impact of their businesses on the environment and the ways they can contribute to preserving it, as well as making valuable contributions to their communities. The renowned telecommunications giant, Vodafone Egypt, has been increasingly involved in raising awareness about environmental and social issues in the past years.
As part of its active involvement in these issues, Vodafone Egypt is partnering with the AUC School of Business in the ‘This is how I moved my #BusinessForward’ campaign with the aim of raising awareness about the influence of companies in Egypt to enhance environmental action and social change while also bringing value to their business.
Business Forward had an exclusive one-on-one with Vodafone Egypt’s external affairs and legal director, Ayman Essam. The in-depth interview tackled various aspects of the work Vodafone is doing in Egypt and its objectives for the coming years in terms of social responsibility.
What guides Vodafone’s corporate responsibility approach?
Our purpose – to connect for a better future by enabling inclusive and sustainable digital societies – serves as the framework for what we do at Vodafone. This is supported by our three purpose pillars: inclusion for all, the planet, and a digital society. Vodafone is committed to eliminating carbon emissions from its own operations by 2030 and reaching ‘net zero’ across its entire footprint by 2040. With that in mind, the company’s 2030 carbon reduction targets have been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative; in line with the global goal – limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In what different areas is the approach you mention reflected in Vodafone’s work in Egypt?
Vodafone Egypt has a strong commitment towards the planet focusing on reducing and offsetting its carbon footprint. Our strategy works on ensuring that our commercial success does not come at a negative cost to the environment but rather serves it. We believe in digitizing the society and utilizing our advanced technologies in helping to address the environment’s most pressing challenges. Furthermore, we are committed to the greening of our activities and creating a more efficient and sustained green economy. We believe that green economies will only be realized through multi-stakeholder engagement approach. The private sector should complement the role of the public sector as it possesses the resources and scale necessary to generate and deliver important sustainable market innovations.
In what ways do you see corporates having the power to create impact in issues like environmental action and positive social change? Could you share with us examples from Vodafone’s work in Egypt?
Examples of our initiatives include E-Tadweer, the electronics waste e-recycling application; the ‘Eco-SIM’ card produced from 100% recycled plastic to our customers; and ‘Vodafone Begin’ freelancing platform, which aims to matchmake talented freelancers with a huge number of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Small Office/Home Office (SOHOs) to work on freelancing jobs in various fields.
What are your views on environmental action being more expensive for the business? Is it actually economically viable for businesses to do reduce their negative impact and become more sustainable?
We believe that urgent and sustained action is required to address the climate emergency. Business success should not come at a cost to the environment, and we are committed to ensure the greening of all of our activities. We also see a key role for our digital networks and technologies in helping to address climate change. Digitalization is key to saving energy, using natural resources more efficiently and creating a circular economy.
Give us examples of how else Vodafone applies social and environmental responsibility in its day-to-day operations? What have you changed in the business-as-usual operations as a reflection of higher social and environmental responsibility? What were the results for Vodafone?
Some of our initiatives at Vodafone Egypt include the ‘100 percent Green Network’, according to which we commit to operating our network on 100 percent green energy by 2025; establishing leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) buildings and retail stores; the Vodafone Carbon Clock to monitor and mitigate our carbon emissions on a monthly basis; ‘Fekretek’, an ideathon that specifically designed for women to help them bring their sustainable and scalable business ideas to life; ‘Yalla sharek’, a volunteering program that aims to encourage all volunteers in giving back to their communities; and ‘Ta3limy’, Vodafone Egypt’s online educational platform which was established with the aim of assisting Egyptian students in the remote education process following the government’s decision to close schools due to COVID-19.
Many of Vodafone’s social initiatives focus on education, children wellbeing and youth development. How has that helped Vodafone? (How has that moved the business forward), and what was the societal impact?
Our commitment to people and society is based on action that goes in two directions. At the core of our purpose is building a company that enables an inclusive digital society. At the same time, to do that, we need a corporate culture that reflects our purpose, values and ambition. This is why building a dynamic and visionary workforce and supporting inclusive digitalization are two tightly interlinked areas, one impossible without the other.
How has Vodafone’s global CSR approach been tailored to the Egyptian context?
We build upon the Vodafone Group Sustainable Business Strategy to drive positive change for the planet and humanity through our three purpose pillars while ensuring we act responsibly and ethically wherever we operate. At the core of our purpose is our commitment to sustainability, and we are tirelessly searching for ways to expand our positive impact. The various initiatives implemented by Vodafone Egypt contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Egypt Vision 2030 goals, which reflect how SDGs are manifested in the national context.