Smarter resource management

Andreas Kröhling, sustainability expert at Deutsche Telekom, explains in an interview why dematerialization is a good concept and why we should share more.


Questions for...

Andreas Kröhling

Question 1 out of 6

  • Without the conflict resource tantalum there would be no smartphones. Does that mean we are harming the environment?

    More than 1.4 billion smartphones were sold worldwide in 2016 alone. Almost five times as many as in 2010. This also increases the need for conflict resource tantalum, which is also important in medical technology and can be found in coltan. We know that coltan extraction is incredibly problematic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, both socially and environmentally. Although that doesn't necessarily mean we are intentionally harming the environment, it does mean that we need to improve the conditions under which this raw material is mined. And we are working on this in collaboration with other companies.

  • Do we need to stop using smartphones or are there ways to sustainably obtain tantalum?

    Don't worry, we don't have to stop using smartphones. After all, smartphones come with a number of sustainability advantages and we shouldn't have to give these up. It does make sense, however, to improve the conditions under which tantalum is extracted, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Deutsche Telekom collaborates with the industry associations GeSi, the Global E-Sustainability Initiative and EICC, Electronic Industries Citizenship Coalition. to certify smelting companies. Another key factor is that tantalum can be recycled from old telecommunications equipment. We collaborated with scientists to develop an effective method for this. However, it is still not possible to obtain enough raw materials from recycled cell phones for it to be economically beneficial, the amounts are just too small. Another option is to extend the usage span of smartphones. You don't need to always have the latest model, and if you do, you can give your phone to someone or resell it, making sure that the device has a long useful life.

  • What steps do we need to take so that we are able to conserve more of the Earth's resources?

    Reusing resources definitely help conserve our planet's valuable resources. But it's even better to avoid using those resources in the first place. Take a newspaper, for example. Printing a newspaper from recycled newspapers reduced the need for wood and energy as well as the newspaper's carbon footprint. An electronic newspaper does away with the need for paper altogether. This approach is called dematerialization.

  • Can you think of another example that relates to the workplace?

    Yes. Our Dynamic Workplace Solutions makes it possible to outsource all programs and data needed in daily work activities to the cloud, saving energy at the same time. It also makes it possible for everyone to work from any Internet-capable device and access the data and applications they need. With the solution it becomes much easier to work from home or on the go, saving time and energy typically consumed during the commute.

  • Aren't we forgetting that data centers need an incredible amount of energy, that also harms the environment?

    Although it is true that data centers also consume a considerable amount of energy, the risk this poses to the environment strongly depends on which types of energy are used to power the data center. When talking about energy consumption at data centers it is important to keep in mind that modern data centers like the new one we operate in the city of Biere near Magdeburg are particularly energy efficient. That means they are equipped with modern, low-energy servers and require considerably less energy for heating and cooling that traditional data centers. What's more, data centers and the cloud enable considerably more efficient capacity utilization of IT infrastructure. There is also potential to reduce energy consumption and CO₂ production in a number of applications and services operated at data centers. Our Dynamic Workplace Solutions product is an excellent example.

  • Sharing instead of owning has become a trend. What role does Deutsche Telekom have in this?

    Sharing instead of owning is made so much easier thanks to ICT and Deutsche Telekom, and the internet - Take carpooling for example. It used to be so complicated. You had to call and arrange the trip and then go to the carpooling center to pay. Today, you can do it all conveniently online. Car sharing has also become so much easier, contributing to the boom in this alternative transportation choice. Deutsche Telekom provides the required infrastructure via fixed-line and mobile communications, in which we will be investing 5 billion euros a year in Germany alone over the next several years. Thanks to its high data privacy and security standards, Deutsche Telekom gives customers confidence in the fact that they can conduct their transactions online without complications. Deutsche Telekom has the expertise needed to set up and operate sharing platforms.

A ndreas Kröhling always pays very close attention when it comes to managing global resources. That is why the Deutsche Telekom sustainability expert is not satisfied with merely recovering gold, silver and other raw materials from used cell phones. This is a crucial approach at a company like Deutsche Telekom that is responsible for vast amounts of e-waste generated by its multi-billion network expansion. Andreas Kröhling's idea of smart recycling, however, goes even further: “Rather than recovering raw materials from waste, it is much better to prevent waste production in the first place”, Andreas Kröhling says.

Rather than recovering raw materials from waste, it is much better to prevent waste production in the first place

The keyword here is "dematerialization". What sounds like rocket science and a futuristic vision is already well underway. Andreas Kröhling explains in an audio interview what dematerialization is all about and why the trend towards sharing is more than just trendy but can considerably contribute to future generations having enough resources so that they can live well.