Unlocking the Business Value in Total Societal Impact

“The coming decade affords mobile network operators a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. Because of their unique combination of core business, customer base, and capabilities, telcos can capitalise on broadening societal expectations for corporate purpose and performance to build new sources of revenue and business.”

This is an extract from a recent report by the GSMA and BCG on how telcos can unlock value by using their core business, products and services to tackle environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

Every day, news headlines remind us of the pressing environmental and social issues the world is facing. With this comes the expectation that companies have a role to play in addressing these challenges. The Davos 2020 Manifesto highlights that corporations should act in the interests of all its stakeholders. It outlines how companies should pay fair taxes, implement a zero-tolerance policy on corruption and uphold human rights. In short, the business licence to operate will change over the next decade.

In the mobile sector, many operators are already creating sustainable business strategies and managing their ESG risks. However, there is an opportunity to use their strengths and capabilities to score a double win, with customers and investors, by helping companies in other industries address their ESG issues. The report highlights 20 opportunity areas spanning a half dozen topics of major ESG relevance. While telcos are already exploring many of these, they will need to bring a new management focus to really capitalise on them.

Analysis shows sustainability performance is an important consideration in valuation multiples today in many sectors. To date, higher valuations have correlated primarily with factors that reduce ESG related risks. Over time, however, BCG believes investors will also recognise the upside of positive ESG performance on a company’s longer-run competitive advantage and value.

“We are entering an era where the value of a company won’t just be measured in terms of economic or social performance, but also by its contribution to society,” said Stephane Richard, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Orange SA.

To help understand the landscape of ESG efforts in the industry, the GSMA created its Sustainability Assessment Framework in 2018, with the support of Yale University and Sida. The framework is designed to provide operators with a clear analysis of how they can improve, gaps in their approach and inspire action through sharing examples of best practice.

The assessment this year, based on operators’ public reporting, shows almost half of the operators we assessed are either in the ‘leadership’ or ‘established’ categories. This is testimony to the importance the industry already places on people, planet, profit. However, there is definitely room for improved practices and innovation across the industry to unlock real value for the triple bottom line…
For more information: www.gsma.com/betterfuture/sustainable-business