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Annual Report : Environmental performance   Next : The way forward
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Sustainability review - Contents

Environmental performance

Environmental performance

Our environmental impacts include:

  • Emissions, including electromagnetic fields and carbon dioxide, from base stations, handsets and vehicles
  • Noise pollution from base station generators
  • Visual impact and aesthetic issues around base station sites
  • Recycling phones and recharge vouchers
  • Direct energy, water use and waste generation

Our environmental policy is available on In this section, we emphasise key areas of the policy and highlight a number of our environmental initiatives.

Environmental policy, programmes and systems

MTN’s environmental policy underscores the Group’s total commitment to the implementation of a programme that identifies significant aspects and ensures low environmental impact. The programme is documented in an online environmental management system (EMS) and includes best practice for building MTN’s infrastructure. The programme includes the minimisation of waste, prevention of pollution and responsible land management, including managing the impact on flora, fauna, water and wildlife. This commitment to responsible environmental impact management ensures a clean and healthy environment for all stakeholders.

In addition, MTN undertakes to use energy efficiently – both in terms of its infrastructure requirements and in the daily running of its operations – and to re-use and recycle where possible. This includes the use of environmentally preferred materials and the philosophy of collaborating with all stakeholders to enhance common environmental objectives.

MTN has implemented procedures to ensure compliance with all applicable environmental legislation. Where legislation may be inadequate in any region of operation, the Group has appointed functions within the company to establish reasonable standards to manage human health and safety and to ensure that these standards are met by all operations.

MTN South Africa is ISO 14001 certified. The Group aims to obtain certification for all operations over time. In the year ahead, the Group will strive for the following targets as per the environmental impact analysis:

  • Reduce paper usage by recycling
  • Recycle toner ink cartridges
  • Recycle obsolete cellphones, cellphone batteries and network infrastructure equipment
  • Use only environmentally friendly and nonhazardous materials, avoiding hazardous materials where possible
  • Create stakeholder awareness on environmental issues
  • Build and maintain sites in compliance with applicable environmental legislation and procedures
  • Collate information sources on radio waves associated with mobile telecommunications
  • Create awareness on electromagnetic field compliance and assist where possible in disseminating information on this issue

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There were no prosecutions brought against or fines paid by the Group in the period for contravening any environmental laws.

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The Group’s activities result in limited emissions to air or water. Emissions are generated mainly from base stations and mobile phone handsets. As the issue of base station emissions and the potential harmful effects of cellphone use are of particular importance to our customers, regional communities, infrastructure suppliers and contractors, we are committed to ensuring that radio frequency (RF) exposures generated by our infrastructure and services comply strictly with international and national safety guidelines. Guidelines on acceptable levels of emissions are issued by the Department of Health, based on the guiding principles set by the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

We engage in dialogue with communities where base stations are to be located. Should any member of the community have concerns regarding a specific site, we will test the levels of emissions and make the readings available.

We keep track of global research, specifically the GSM Association’ and receive weekly updates on research and findings. Research on the potentially negative effects of radio frequency exposures emitted from handsets is not yet conclusive.

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Base stations

The Group follows a number of procedures relating to building base station sites, giving due consideration to their impact on the environment and surrounding communities. These procedures prescribe necessary actions to be taken before and after the erection of masts.

These include:

  • Identifying the need for new base stations and specifying their locations while also considering possible alternative sites
  • Considering the visual impact of the proposed masts – including selecting the appropriate colour that matches the immediate environment, building masts away from places of residence and ensuring the appropriate concealment of masts
  • Ensuring that all required approvals have been obtained and that the requisite environmental impact assessments have been undertaken where necessary
  • Consulting with relevant stakeholders when required
  • Managing and monitoring contractors’ and suppliers’ activities during and after the construction process. This includes obligations on the part of contractors and suppliers to dispose of rubble and to protect fauna and flora in areas surrounding masts
  • Managing and monitoring the rehabilitation of sites before, during and after the construction process by taking photographs of the area and ensuring it is returned to its original condition
  • Obtaining the requisite certification of compliance for base station sites, without which contractors will not be paid
  • Visiting each base station every four months to capture possible environmental issues and to actively monitor waste generation and clean-up requirements

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Product stewardship

MTN understands the importance of preserving the environment and has embarked on a number of recycling and clean-up campaigns during the past period, one of which included the safe disposal of cellphone waste. MTN South Africa, for instance, is encouraging consumers to drop off their unused handsets and old batteries for recycling, irrespective of make or model, at any MTN dealership or franchise outlet, nationwide.

While some handset suppliers, such as Ericsson, will reclaim their batteries for remanufacture and dispose of their handsets effectively, all other cellphone batteries are deposited into a specially designated drum at MTN’s warehouse. Once full, the drum is transported as a solid pollutant by a chemical waste vehicle to an authorised landfill site.

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Environmetnal performanceICTs and rural entrepreneurship programme

One of the challenges facing remote communities today is communication – physical, human or digital. It is a driver of development and it represents a cornerstone of modern society. We know – and often take for granted – so many ways of communication. Communication means integration, negotiation and access. It connects cities, continents and individuals and empowers remote communities by bridging the difference and the divergence that remove them from learning facilities and prevent them from actively participating in meaningful commerce.

In August 2005, the MTN Foundation in South Africa launched its ICTs and rural entrepreneurship programme, designed specifically to create environments within which rural entrepreneurs – specifically rural women – will have access to the communication infrastructure that facilitates economic entrepreneurial opportunities and to address the challenge of business isolation faced by the majority of rural women entrepreneurs. In designing the scope and agenda for the programme, the Foundation collaborated with the Presidency, the Department of Local and Provincial Government and all nine provincial education departments.

The setting-up process for each of the initial 18 projects comprised a comprehensive business profile of each of the areas including the identification of available business services, and local economic development (LED) plans as well as considering the current regional presence of women-owned businesses.

The most desirable and effective sites have been multi-purpose community centres which have been established by government under the auspices of Government Communication and Information System. They are typically centrally located, easily accessible and have some degree of infrastructure in place already. Each centre contains 10 PCs, a printer, server, fax machine, a phone-shop and GPRS, providing internet access. To date, 550 women entrepreneurs in six provinces have been trained and mentored on the equipment, basic business skills, general ICT principles and marketing since April 2005. Within the next three years, the Foundation aims to establish 50 business centres across six provinces that will benefit 1 500 rural women entrepreneurs.

The Foundation further aims to empower local communities, by identifying local business partners and women “champions” to manage the existing centres and to ensure sustainability of the centres once MTN Foundation staff extricate themselves from each project. Moreover, the programme’s beneficiaries include women across the generation spectrum as well as women infected with HIV/AIDS.

Strategic partners supporting the programme alongside the Foundation include the Presidency, WDB Trust, Rural Women’s Movement, SEDA, the dti, district and local municipalities, Microsoft, and Mindset (USA). The Foundation ensures that service vendors helping to implement the project consist of mainly BEE companies and local suppliers, thereby fulfilling the BEE supplier requirements set by the ICT charter.

Two of the most significant commitments to responsible product stewardship in the past year have been the introduction of biodegradable scratch cards and the introduction of virtual air time systems in most regions, reducing the need for recharge cards.

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Energy, waste and material use

The Group is developing a “culture of being efficient” across all its operations thereby creating awareness for environmental and green issues throughout the regions. MTN’s energy usage is associated with the following key areas:

  • Servicing office buildings
  • The supply of power to switches and base station sites – including associated air-conditioning to base stations
  • The use of diesel and petrol in network vehicles, base station site generators and switch standby generators

Water use in the Group is minimal and limited primarily to:

  • Consumption at corporate offices
  • Minor applications within network operations, such as cleaning vehicles at warehouse sites

During the past year, the Group has placed particular emphasis on energy and water conservation through efficient and cost-effective material use initiatives. These include:

  • Constructing buildings that are energy efficient and comply as far possible with the “green building” concept
  • The use of a “battery first” back-up system to manage electricity failures, thereby decreasing diesel consumption in base station generators
  • The use of low-voltage globes in buildings across the Group
  • Building switches that are remotely monitored and change controlled by a central, in-house service centre
  • Saving electricity on actual base station sites by using one rather than two air-conditioners
  • The installation of a water purification plant at the South African facility where water is recycled and then re-used to water office gardens and for in-house cleaning activities

Emphasis has also been placed on other recycling and clean-up campaigns including:

  • The toner cartridges disposal project
  • The indoor air quality and environment project
  • Hazardous materials awareness drive
  • The municipal waste collection project

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