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Building a better and sustainable future

Story by
Yingying Li

Yingying Li

Head of Comms, Western Europe, Huawei

Huawei’s progress on sustainable development is thanks to over three decades of commitment and hard work that has seen the company place sustainability at the heart of its innovative processes, writes YINGYING LI.

Huawei first started to examine what role it could play as a corporate citizen back in the 1980s, not long after the company formed. Back then, the emphasis was on operational compliance with the laws in force at the time, and the undertaking of charitable activities to improve our positive footprint as a good corporate citizen.

As Huawei began to expand overseas, with the support of our customers, between 2002 and 2003 we were able to raise our corporate social responsibility efforts to international standards in all our management systems and we committed to an ethical procurement policy. Then in 2011, we undertook to collaborate with our industry partners on improving sustainable development, seeing it as a differentiating factor that could also give us a competitive advantage. Today, everything we do on sustainability is geared towards better business and adding social value - and it lies at the heart of our constant innovation processes.

4 Strategies that drive sustainable development in Huawei

These are based on

  1.  Digital inclusion
  2.  Security and trustworthiness
  3.  Environmental protection, and
  4.  Harnessing a healthy and harmonious ecosystem.

By focusing on these four strategies, we develop innovation, products and solutions to help all industries reduce their atmospheric emissions and adopt circular economic practices.

Connectivity is the cornerstone of digital inclusion. Whether it’s a tropical region, a scorching desert or Mount Everest, we want people to be able to find a network everywhere. But there are still 4 billion people in the world without Internet access and 66% of households are not connected – that is why we launch solutions such as Rural Star.

In Nigeria, half the population live in areas without basic telecoms infrastructure. Huawei’s RuralStar solution can operate off just six solar panels. We deployed it with operator MTN in Nigeria and it has enabled many people in these remote areas to connect for the first time. By the end of 2018, RuralStar had been developed in more than 50 countries, connecting 40 million people.

There are also areas in Europe without connectivity

But network connectivity problems don’t just exist in developing countries. In France, there are 4,000 so-called “white zones”, areas with no Internet access, affecting at least 1% of the population. Huawei has been working with operators and the French Government for several years to address this problem. By the end of 2018, we had provided coverage to 3,300 of these areas and this year they will get 4G networks. The aim is to provide total coverage by 2022.

But Digital Inclusion is not just about connectivity. People need to be able to access and use applications, too. In 2018, working with the European Union of the Deaf, we launched StorySign, a mobile app for children with hearing impairment, which can now translate books from ten different European languages into sign language. StorySign has a huge market. It could benefit 32 million deaf children in the world. Another app we launched last year, Mobile Money, has enabled around 50 million people without bank accounts in developing countries to transfer money from their smartphones.

To enable access to such apps, though, people need digital skills. This is why we started our ICT Academy several years ago – to share our knowledge with university students and award them with certificates that increase their competitiveness in the jobs market. At the end of 2018, Huawei was working with over 500 universities in 60 countries and 80,000 students had participated in our ICT Academy programmes.

Security and trustworthiness

We all know cyber security and data privacy are the cornerstone of digital development. We fully understand the concern of governments and users in this respect. In this regard, in 2018, Huawei initiated a EUR 1.7 billion programme to improve our software engineering processes and in March this year we opened the Huawei Cybersecurity Transparency Centre in Brussels to engage with our customers, security experts and different stakeholders to develop unified standards to deliver innovative cybersecurity technologies.

It is also our social responsibility to ensure the smooth operation and reliability of networks for 3 billion people. This is Huawei’s basic role – and it includes assuring network stability in adverse conditions. In last year’s Indonesian earthquake for example, which sadly killed 2,000 people and left another 17,000 homeless, Huawei set up an emergency response team 15 minutes after the disaster struck. With hard work, our team managed to restore 84 base stations and three backbones in five major cities in the affected areas, because we know that communication is critical for rescue work in the aftermath of such a tragic event.

Reducing carbon emissions

As the world becomes more connected, energy efficiency has become a major consideration for future communication networks. It is our responsibility to use less energy to transmit more data and reduce overall energy consumption. There is a fair amount of concern that 5G may consume more power than 4G, because you could believe that in mobile stations you need to transform more data at faster speed. As a matter of fact, overall power consumption of 5G is more or less the same as a 4G network. Through extensive innovation in 5G research and engineering, we managed to reduce the power consumption per site to 20% less than the average industry standard. So, our 5G equipment is more energy efficient and we are proud to say that Huawei’s 5G is Green 5G. 

In 2018, we used 932 million kWh of electricity from renewable sources, representing about 450,000 tons of saved carbon emissions. We also encourage our suppliers to develop their own emissions reduction programmes. In 2018, 20 suppliers responded to our call, cutting a total of over 50,000 tons of emissions from their operations. 

Indeed, open collaboration is the key to achieving sustainable development. We hope to see great solidarity and cooperation in the future. We will keep investing in joint innovations, achieving technology breakthroughs, resolving technology bottlenecks, and driving industry standards with our partners. 

Together we will make digital technologies more affordable, reliable and accessible for everybody – with a positive contribution to the fight against climate change.

Download Huawei’s 2018 Sustainability Report