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Airtel releases sustainability report for India operations

According to reports, Bharti Airtel Ltd, India’s largest telecom company, is transitioning to solar power for a number of its mobile towers to cut its dependence on erratic supply from the power grid and to lessen pollution caused by diesel generators.

Bharti said this in its first sustainability report that it released on Thursday, underscoring the business benefits of such efforts. “This is not a philanthropic exercise. It has bearing on the P&L (profit and loss) statement of the company,” Sanjay Kapoor, chief executive (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel, said over the phone.

The telecom company said at least 70% of mobile towers suffer erratic power supply, which forces operators to use diesel generators and batteries that pollute while also crimping operating margins.

Bharti Airtel reported a 11% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per terabyte in network infrastructure in 2011-12. “We have worked with our partners to successfully transition around 2,000 tower sites to solar energy,” it said in the Airtel’s Sustainability Report 2011-2012.

The telecom firm also said it conducts around 5,000 service camps a year to reach out to its rural customers, “who have a need for face-to-face interaction”. This makes business sense as well, Bharti said, since rural and emerging markets contribute to about 60% of its customer base.

While other telecom firms have similar sustainability programmes, Bharti “is bringing greater focus on their initiatives,” said Rikesh Parikh, vice-president, Motilal Oswal Securities.

“There are two things. One is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative and second is reducing the consumption of electricity and reducing their costs—green initiatives,” he said. “Reaching rural areas is part of their CSR initiative like few other companies and they want to make it part of their reporting structure. In the new companies Act, it will become a mandatory exercise.”

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