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Actions Speak Louder Than Words – Empowering a Low-Carbon Society with ICT Innovation

By Tao Jingwen, Director of the Board and Director of the Corporate Sustainable Development Committee, Huawei

Environmental protection will continue being key to the sustainable development of world economy over the next ten years. Cooperation between economic development and nature has become a shared topic worldwide. As global climate change continues to intensify, carbon neutrality is becoming a common goal of many countries. According to a study by the UN, the rise in global temperature should be kept below 1.5°C to avoid severe impacts of climate change. The study suggests that we should pursue efforts to exceed the goal set by the Paris Agreement.

The goal of limiting the rise in global temperature to just 1.5°C poses huge challenges to all economies. The achievement of this goal will rely on the joint efforts of global governments and different industries, such as transportation, energy, and agriculture. Transformation towards green economies is rather urgent, and the information and communications technology (ICT) industry should act as a pioneer in this transformation.

According to Huawei's Global Industry Vision report, the carbon emissions per connection in the ICT industry will decrease by 80% by 2025. This would mean that the energy saved and the carbon emission reductions by ICT technology will be far more than the energy consumed and carbon emissions produced by the ICT industry.

As a leading global provider of ICT infrastructure and smart devices, Huawei has been actively fulfilling its social responsibilities. Huawei is committed to technological innovation to greatly reduce the environmental impacts of ICT products, and protect the sky, forests, and oceans for humanity with green, energy-saving technologies.

Building an energy-saving, emission-reducing innovation system based on product lifecycle assessment

Huawei's products cover a wide range of scenarios in the ICT industry, including smart devices, wireless access, fixed access, data communications, optical transmission, and intelligent computing. This end-to-end portfolio of products and solutions serves more than 3 billion people across more than 170 countries and regions. Huawei has developed a sustainability strategy that focuses on digital inclusion, security and trustworthiness, environmental protection, and a healthy and harmonious ecosystem.

In terms of environmental protection, we are committed to minimizing environmental impacts during our production and operations, as well as throughout our product and service lifecycles. We develop innovative products and solutions to help industries save energy and reduce emissions. We also make ongoing efforts to work with all industry partners to build a low-carbon society.

After years of continuous innovation, Huawei has built the concepts of energy conservation and emissions reduction into its end-to-end product development processes. A core element of Huawei's ICT product design is its product lifecycle assessment (LCA). We follow ISO 14040, ISO 14044, and ETSI ES 203 199 to conduct lifecycle assessments that quantify the environmental impacts of our products at different stages. This includes raw material acquisition, production, transportation, usage, and recycling. Through these assessments, we stay informed about how to improve product design and make our products more environment-friendly. In addition, the LCA has shown us that network products use more energy during the usage stage, while devices generate a much bigger environmental impact during raw material consumption. Therefore, we are focusing on improving energy efficiency and material efficiency to make our products more environment-friendly.

End-to-End ICT product innovation for environmental protection

For high-power equipment that is used for network transmission and switching in metro networks, backbone networks, and data centers, Huawei has been focusing on energy saving as a key in product innovation. We have improved chipset and component integration, introduced innovations in heat dissipation techniques, and upgraded our transmission rates, resulting in our all-optical cross-connection (OXC) products consuming 45% less energy than traditional ROADM equipment. In addition, the energy consumption per Gbit of our routers is down to 0.3W, 30% less than the industry average. Meanwhile, our data center switches consume less than 0.13W of energy per Gbit, 50% less than the energy consumed by the last generation.

For network edge equipment in the wireless access scenario, especially 5G equipment, Huawei conducts technological innovation in fields like very large scale antenna arrays and simplified sites. We have made innovations in chipset design techniques and algorithms, filters, hardware materials, and heat dissipation techniques, already helping to reduce the energy consumption of 5G equipment by 15%. The energy consumption per bit of 5G is just 4% that of 4G. As 5G technology continues improving and the capacity of 5G networks increases, the energy consumption per bit will continue to decrease. In addition, in Huawei's 5G active antenna units (AAUs), we use new manufacturing techniques for heat dissipation, making the heat dissipation equipment 25% lighter. We also use lightweight magnesium alloy materials to make shielding covers and power covers, making the covers 30% lighter.

For network edge equipment in the fixed access scenario, Huawei focuses on innovations in optical line terminals (OLT) and optical network terminals (ONT) in order to save energy. Our smart OLT products are 25% more energy efficient than the industry average thanks to the four-level energy saving control in chipsets, ports, boards, and the equipment as a whole, as well as our technological innovations like dynamic frequency modulation. 6,000 kWh of electricity can be saved per year for a single frame fully configured with Huawei's OLT products. Our ONT products use the APM energy saving mechanism, which can automatically sense the status of products and intelligently trigger sleep mode. This can help reduce the overall energy consumption of the equipment by 20%.

For consumer products, Huawei has gradually been adopting bioplastics for multiple smartphone and smart watch models since 2013. These new materials help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 62.6%. In 2018, Huawei's use of bioplastics helped reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 612 tons. In terms of process improvement, Huawei uses the Kirin 980 chip, which is manufactured using 7nm processors, in many of its products. The first product to use this chip was the HUAWEI Mate 20 series, which has seen greatly improved product performance and energy efficiency. The battery life is also 30% longer than its predecessor. A total of 40 million users will save 114,000 kWh of electricity per day thanks to these improvements.

Huawei also innovates in manufacturing processes, packaging, transportation, and recycling, in order to promote environmental protection across ICT product lifecycles. In terms of packaging, we adopt a lightweight, green packaging concept. We have also designed recyclable metal pallets to replace wooden ones, and use high-strength paper boxes to replace wooden ones. This reduces the usage of wood and carbon emissions. In addition, Huawei uses FSC-certified packaging for its consumer products. 60% of packaging materials are made from recycled pulp, and the rest of the packaging materials come from well-managed, sustainable forests. In the consumer business, Huawei has used 306 tons of FSC-certified packaging materials since 2018. If we consider each ton of packaging material is made from about 5 m3 of timbers, then Huawei has helped support the sustainability of around 51,033 m2 of forests.

Empowering industries with green ICT solutions to jointly build a green world

The ICT industry has made numerous innovations related to environmental protection and energy conservation, which have been widely recognized worldwide. Huawei is committed to promoting green ICT solutions, through which we aim to drive industries to conserve energy, reduce emissions, and build a low-carbon society that saves resources.

During the deployment of 5G base stations, Huawei's 5G Power solution, which features simplification and intelligence, as well as being environmentally friendly, uses technologies related to solar access, efficient rectification, and intelligent voltage boosting to improve energy efficiency from end to end. Thanks to its contributions to energy conservation and emissions reductions for mobile networks, this solution was awarded the Global Industry Award for Sustainable Impact by the ITU this year.

With the help of AI and other technologies, Huawei's energy-saving solution PowerStar reduces the power consumption of base stations by 10% to 15%. In China's Zhejiang Province, PowerStar helped a telecom operator reduce the power consumption of equipment on its main wireless network by 12%. This solution is expected to save 26 million kWh of electricity on wireless networks across Zhejiang each year.

Huawei's hybrid power solution features innovative technologies related to digitization, AI, and advanced energy storage. In stark contrast to traditional diesel generators, this solution realizes zero carbon emissions. For example, after deploying the solution, a telecom operator in Ethiopia saw annual fuel savings of 12 million liters. At the awards ceremony of the 21st AfricaCom, the solution won the Best Sustainable Power Solution award.

Our green solutions for PV power generation also contribute to environmental protection. The Cauchari 300-MW PV power plant in Argentina adopted Huawei's smart PV solution to provide green power for local residents in Jujuy Province. This move is expected to reduce carbon emissions by about 598,000 tons each year. By the end of 2018, global shipments of Huawei's smart PV solutions had exceeded 90 GW, generating about 126 billion kWh of clean electricity each year and reducing annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 60 million tons.

Huawei's smart cooling solution iCooling@AI uses intelligent technologies to reduce the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of data centers by 8% to 15%. With this solution, the PUE of Huawei's cloud data center in Langfang has decreased from 1.42 to less than 1.3, saving over 5 million kWh of electricity every year.

Huawei has been improving both software and hardware to extend the lifespans of mobile phones, improve resource utilization, and enhance consumer experience. We offer free upgrades of our EMUI operating system to provide users with the latest features and extend the lifespans of their phones. In addition, we provide convenient and affordable battery replacement and phone repair services to consumers to extend the lifespans of their phones even further.

Huawei actively builds green and low-carbon campuses and strives for green operations by effectively managing energy, procuring clean energy, and building more PV plants on our campuses. We have built PV plants in our Southern Factory in Dongguan, Hangzhou Research Center, Nanjing Research Center, and Xi'an Research Center. These plants have a combined capacity of 19.5 MW, and generated over 16 million kWh of electricity in 2018. In addition, our carbon dioxide emissions per million CNY of sales revenue were 2.89 tons in 2018, representing a 24.5% decrease compared with 2012.

Building a sustainability management system

Huawei has long been committed to developing green products and solutions, and we have established a sustainability management system based on international standards and guidelines such as ISO 26000 and SA 8000. We have also developed and published a series of management approaches and tools such as policies, processes, and baselines in order to fully incorporate environmental protection concepts into every aspect of our routine business operations.

Huawei established a Corporate Sustainable Development Committee back in 2010. This committee aims to ensure the effective execution of our sustainability strategies, such as our environmental protection strategy, better manage sustainability risks, and consistently meet the requirements of customers, governments, and other stakeholders.

We fully utilize our sustainability management processes to plan, implement, monitor, and improve our sustainability work. We also carry out comprehensive assessments covering five areas: leadership, planning, organization and capabilities, process operations, and performance evaluation. These assessments aim to fully understand the maturity of each business domain, identify areas for improvement, and drive business departments to make ongoing improvements. By the end of 2018, we had conducted maturity assessments for four consecutive years. The assessment results show that our sustainability management maturity has continuously improved.

Environmental protection is about much more than concepts. Concepts must be fully integrated as part of the concrete actions taken by every country, company, and individual. We must take such action to fulfill our commitments to keeping our planet green.

Huawei calls on all players across the ICT industry to join us in our efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. Let's continue developing innovative, green ICT technology and fully empower the green development of all industries. This is how we will create a better world for future generations – a fully connected, intelligent world.