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Ralph Reid Chat Transcript - October 28, 2009

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Sarah: Welcome and thank you for joining our chat! We're pleased to have Ralph Reid, VP of Corporate Responsibility with us to discuss Sprint's leadership in environmental stewardship.
Ralph: I'm glad that you've joined us today to discuss Sprint's environmental initiatives.
MaggieD: Why should I care about Sprint’s environmental efforts?
Ralph: Consumers have the power to choose who they do business with. We hope consumers will value our responsibility efforts and that it will supplement their decision to come to Sprint or stay with Sprint as a company they can feel good about doing business with. We see a shift in consumer values, particularly among today's youth, toward enviornmental and social responsibility.
MONEYB: Why do you think it’s important for Sprint be environmentally responsible?
Ralph: As a Fortune 100 co. with a large network and about 42,000 employees, we have a significant environmental impact. Sprint must respond accordingly by managing its own impact and providing customers with tools to help reduce theirs, as well.
hooman: How can I tell if you’re being environmentally responsible?
Ralph: We have committed to publicly reporting on our corporate responsibility efforts and have two primary places you can check - sprint.com/green and sprint.com/responsibility. We first published our responsibility prioriities and goals starting in late 2007 and have continued to update our information on a regular basis.
pickled76: What are you doing different than the other mobile phone companies?
Ralph: Sprint has taken a more action-oriented approach. We established our 4 environmental priorities in 2008: greenhouse gas reduction, use of renewable energy, phone recycling and deployment of env responsible products and services. We now lead the industry in each.
mx1987: What are the most important environmental issues that Sprint is addressing?
Ralph: Greenhouse gas reduction, use of renewable energy, phone recycling, and deployment of environmentally responsible products and services. We're also working to reduce our overall operational waste, reduce our network and IT e-Waste, manage our water and paper consumption, and improve the environmental knowledge responsibility of our employees.
Paulo: Why should I care if a phone is “green”?
Ralph: Greener phones have fewer potentially hazardous substances (an important safety factor for device manufacturing, recycling and refurbishment), are energy efficient (which reduce carbon input and help keep your electricity bills down), use recycled and renewable material (like the corn-based plastic in Sprint's Samsung Reclaim), are more easily recyclable, and have more sustainable pkg.
dotts: Is phone recycling important and if so why?
Ralph: Reduce the volume of e-waste sent daily to our landfills. An estimated 140M devices are ready for retirement each year. Only 10% are currently recycled according to EPA estimates. E-waste poses special hazards for landfill management. Recycling your phones allows them either to be reused or broken down with the reusable components repurposed for new products. This reduces the need for virgin materials and often decreases the amount of energy used in the manufacturing process.
Matt: Is Sprint a member of the US Chamber of Commerce?  If so, how do you juxtapose their climate change stance vs. your own?
Ralph: Good question. Sprint is not a member of the US Chamber of Commerce. However, we are currently working on a formal position on climate change.
Hamburgler: What are Sprints plans for increasing alternative engery consumption?
Ralph: We are currently the leader in the U.S. of actual renewable energy deployment. Currently 80% of our power at our Overland Park, KS Campus World Headquarters is from renewabale energy sources. Our plan is to increase our renewable energy over the next 10 years by 10%.
Matt: Have you produced a carbon baseline for your operations?
Ralph: Yes. We produced our baseline in 2007. It was 2.1 million metric tons and have established a goal to absolutely reduce our emissions by 15% by 2017.
IKE_7700: With all the talk about identity theft I feel weird about recycling my phone. Is it safe?
Ralph: It's always good to be concerned about personal privacy, and that's a key tenant of Srint's wireless recycling program. Our policy is to erase all personal data from phones collected through these programs. We ensure this through contractual agreements with our recycling vendors and regular audits of their operations.
Hamburgler: Has the Samsung Reclaim done well enough to incent more environmentally friendly phones in the Sprint portfolio?
Ralph: The Samsung Reclaim has done and we have announced that we will increase our product portfolio.
Ralph: As clarification to an earlier question about alternative energy consumption, Sprint is the U.S. leader in our industry.
gnatkat: does Sprint have any leverage to get phone suppliers to use less packaging for their products?
Ralph: Yes and we have included sustainable packaging requirements in the environmental specification document that we provided to our suppliers last week.
ScottSClark: What's sprint doing about toxic compounds used inside a cell phone - any efforts to reduce the poisons?
Ralph: Sprint has outlined its plans for a new environmental product and accessory design process online at http://bit.ly/hHlnV. One of our goals is to work toward products that are free of potentially hazardous materials. Sprint's Samsung Reclaim is a good example of a step in that direction -- it's free of PVCs and phthlates, with neglible BFRs associated with the chip set. We'll be working with our manufacturing partners to meet and exceed this efforts with future devices.
gnatkat: What can an individual do to encourage other companies they do business with to "think green"?
Ralph: Vote with your wallet. Buy products that are aligned with your environmental values, and give feedback to the companies you support. Consumers are the true regulators in this sense. By being vocal, you'll help drive the future actions that corporations take.
MD: What efforts are Sprint employees doing at your World HQ (as well as retail stores) to be environmentally responsible?
Ralph: On Earth Day 2008 we rolled out Employee Awareness Campaign on 5 Greens Things Employees can do. 1. Manage Your Power 2. Minimize your trash 3. Be a smart commuter 4. Print less 5. Recycle Electonics. In addition we have a green parking program.
John: Can you tell us how deep into the network are you pushing green initiatives. I see competitors with green fleet orders, or working with vendors for "less heat" compontents, or different energy sources for cell sites. Can you be specific at all regarding Sprint initiatives and if there are any 1sts (aside from the handset/accessories) I'd rather hear about what you are doing to green the network.
Ralph: Stay tuned. We're working on all of things that you've mentioned as well as sustainable tower efforts. We'll be sharing more in the next six months. Announcements on Sprint's environment progress can be found http://twitter.com/SprintGreenNews. And for more on Sprint's 1sts, see http://www.sprint.com/green.
Matt: Do you have a sense for what % of your customer base factors Sprint's environmental initiatives into their decision to use your services or those of a competitor?
Ralph: While Market Research states that environmental buying decisions are growing, we have yet to do the research on our customer base.
Sarah: We've got about 5 minutes left.
Hamburgler: Can you be more specific about exactly what action you took to reduce greenhouse gas?
Ralph: Sprint's made significant strides toward energy efficiency in its commercial bldgs and network sites. One example is a reduction of diesel fuel as backup power in our network cell sites, replacing where possible with hydrogen fuel cells. We've also consider our vehicle fleet reducing its size, the engine size and even driver behavior with an eye towards efficiency. For additional information, see http://www.sprint.com/responsibility/environment/climate.html.
G-187347030: Good afternoon Mr. Reid, My question is what steps is Sprint taking in the Chicago market as it relates to "environmental responsibility"? And with those steps taken in the Chicago market, who is Sprint partnering with from a business standpoint and are there opportunities for a small emerging firm such as mine?
Ralph: Currently we are addressing our environmental responsibility at an Enterprise wide basis and not at a market level basis. We will continue to execute against that plan and feel that markets where we have operations will benefit by our environmental stewardship.
G-187211099: What is Sprint doing to maintain Green when it comes to Battery waste?
Ralph: We currently include device batteries as part of our phone recycling program. In addition we offer battery recycling in general for all employees.
ThinkGreen: What is Sprint doing to force handset makers to use universal accessories?
Ralph: The use of interoperable accessories is one of the objectives covered by Sprint's new environmental product and accessory design process (see online at http://bit.ly/hHlnV). We have shared these expectations with our manufacturers. Their ability to meet this other objectives will be reflected in the way that Sprint rates their overall performance as suppliers.
Sarah: Thanks to everyone for participating. The transcript will be posted shortly and I'll be updating it with additional answers to questions we didn't get to. Also for those of you posting device and account related issues, please go to our online community.

Since we ran out of time, Ralph sent the answers to some of the questions we didn't get to during the chat.

ThinkGreen: Has Sprint seen any economic advantages with the Green Initiatives?
Ralph: Yes -- the most obvious examples are increasing our commercial building, data center and network energy efficiency, increasing our worker mobility (reducing real estate costs), and reducing our paper and water use.
ScottSClark: How does Environmental Stewardship have anything to do with maximizing shareholder value?/span>
Ralph: We think it can do both. Many have the misconception that going green always means adding costs, and thus potentially lowering shareholder value. That's simply not the case. Many of the efforts Sprint has undertaken lower costs in both the short term and long term. The best examples are energy efficiency and waste reduction. We also believe that strong sustainability efforts also build brand reputation, which can lead to increased shareholder value.
ScottSClark: cell phones are short-lived products that present the clearest threat to humans and the environment when they are being created or destroyed. What's Sprint doing to increase the service life of phones?
Ralph: Good question Scott. We're working on some of the challenges here, but admit we don't have all the answers yet. First I should mention that Sprint offers comprehensive service and repair coverage that enables you to extend the life of your phone. Generally, Sprint is able to service phones for up to 3 years or more after they have been introduced. In addition, we're working on both the front-end and the back-end of the lifecycle. On the front-end we're asking our device manufacturers to design with recycling in mind. That means the devices are made of more recyclable components and easier to disassemble and recycle. Most phones today are difficult to disassemble, magnifying the potential hazards in the recycling process. On the back-end, we have strong controls in place for how our recycling partners manage their processes and a Zer0 e-Waste policy they must adhere to. We agree phones should have a longer life that the 18 month average consumers have adopted today. We're thinking through some options that could begin to change the model.
John: Speaking of "providing customers with tools..." can you be specific? Are other initiatives being rolled out other than paperless billing, etc.?
Ralph: Yes - in addition to paperless billing, many of our customers are using applications such our GPS, location-based services to reduce their carbon footprint, are moving to a web-based customer service and sales model (and avoiding the trip to the store), buying eco-friendly accessories, using the one-click tile with green tips from Discovery.com on our new Reclaim phone, and taking advantage of our free wireless recycling programs. We are interested in hearing from our customers regarding additional applications they'd like to see us offer for a more sustainable planet.
John: Speaking of "providing customers with tools..." can you be specific? Are other initiatives being rolled out other than paperless billing, etc.?
Ralph: Yes - in addition to paperless billing, many of our customers are using applications such our GPS, location-based services to reduce their carbon footprint, are moving to a web-based customer service and sales model (and avoiding the trip to the store), buying eco-friendly accessories, using the one-click tile with green tips from Discovery.com on our new Reclaim phone, and taking advantage of our free wireless recycling programs. We are interested in hearing from our customers regarding additional applications they'd like to see us offer for a more sustainable planet.
Susan: can you speak to the deployment of environmentally responsible products and services? Are there more handsets besides the new Reclaim that will be available?
Ralph: Right now, our most eco-friendly device is the Samsung Reclaim. When we launched the Reclaim, we also announced a set of environmental design criteria we'd be using for future devices and accessories: http://bit.ly/hHlnV. We shared our first pass of environmental specifications with our vendors last week and expect to refine them over the next month or two. We intend to make our entire product portfolio more environmentally responsible through this process.
Luke: Being that I am currently pursuing an MBA with a track in Environmental Management, how do you foresee the job market in the future? Does Sprint currently have plans in looking for those with such educational background?
Ralph: We see the green job market growing and CR positions expanding as more corporations add sustainability-focused positions. We predict that centralized Corporate Responsibility teams will remain small, but that functional sustainability positions will be added. You're going into a great field.
Matt: If GHG reduction is a priority for Sprint how are you advocating for federal legislation on the issue?
Ralph: GHG reduction is a priority for us. We are currently developing a formal climate change position. We do expect to support national as well as global regulatory efforts to reduce GHG emissions.
ScottSClark: Your latest 'smart' phones go through power like crazy, lasting only 6 to 8 hours on a charge. What is Sprint doing to make cell phones more power efficient?
Ralph: One of the six priorities we've established for our handset vendors is energy efficiency. This includes both charger efficiency and battery efficiency.
gnatkat: Why should any company feel the need to have a "position" on climate change?
Ralph: We can't speak for other corporations, but can speak for Sprint. We believe climate change is part of a global environmental crisis and that as positive global citizens, we need to participate in the discussion.
Jean: Companies are increasingly becoming "greener". What will Sprint have to do to ensure it has an edge on the competitors?
Ralph: Continue to listen actively to our stakeholders and take action based on their input. We started out with a strong materiality assessment which helped us frame up the issues that were important to our stakeholders and also to our business. That's how we selected the priorities we're still working on and our goals. If we keep the dialog open, we hope our efforts will continue to be on track and provide a competitive edge for us.
Flo: What is your short and long term roadmap to sustainability?
Ralph: Our short-term and long-term map are guided by our priorities and goals which can be found on www.sprint.com/responsibility. The majority of our sustainability efforts are guided by these priorities and goals. As stakeholder input dictates or as unique opportunities are presented, we'll expand our efforts appropriately.
Luke: How does Sprint currently handle the issue of a green supply chain with their suppliers and retailers?
Ralph: We are just beginning our formal effort in this area. We've made the most progress with our handset and accessory manufacturers through our environmental specification work, but are also working with our supply chain team to integrate environmental criteria into our RFP and contract process.
tashd: How do you guys plan on converting to a more "GREEN" company and will it make the phone more expensive when you do so?
Ralph: We do not expect to increase the costs of our devices to cover incremental "green" costs. We believe that customers want to see more environmentally friendly devices, but for the most part are not willing to pay a premium to achieve that. We are working with our suppliers to identify cost effective yet green alternatives for key materials and components.