AT&T Sustainability Initiative: Changing the World by Recycling and Using Natural Gas

Posted on September 14, 2012 · Posted in PK Metals Blog

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When Charlene Lake was appointed AT&T’s first chief sustainability officer in 2009, she saw it as an opportunity to apply AT&T’s heritage of innovation and leadership to a new set of issues.

“From the inception of our sustainability initiatives, we wanted innovation to be the focal point,” said Lake, who also holds the title of senior vice president, Public Affairs. “The culture at AT&T encourages our employees to lead by example when it comes to creating a sustainable working environment.”

Lake, who’s been with AT&T for 26 years, said the company has put in place a wide-ranging sustainability plan. Two areas of specific focus include oversight of a robust recycling program and expansion of the company’s fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles.

“In 2009, AT&T had 3,500 alternative vehicles on the road, which included hybrid, electric, and natural gas,” said Lake. “Our goal is to eventually have 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles in our fleet.”

That effort got a big boost in 2009 when AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson announced the largest commitment to compressed natural gas by any U.S. company, part of a $565 million pledge to add more alternative-fuel vehicles. Stephenson’s friendship with billionaire energy pioneer T. Boone Pickens served as a catalyst for the transition to natural gas. The “Pickens Plan” challenges Americans to lessen dependence on foreign oil by using alternative-energy sources.

“The shift to natural gas as a transportation alternative to OPEC oil/diesel is happening. Until now, the missing link has been leadership. While we wait for Washington to act to speed up this transition — and address the national and economic security threats that come along with our OPEC oil dependence — we are seeing some solid leadership in the private sector, and AT&T is a good example of that with what they are doing to move their fleet to natural gas and other domestic fuels,” said Pickens.

In addition to its substantial commitment to alternative-fuel vehicles, AT&T has taken a leadership role in recycling.  In 2011, AT&T collected approximately 3 million cell phones and 1.7 million pounds of batteries and accessories for reuse and recycling.  It’s a big effort, and AT&T has racked up a long list of impressive accomplishments, including:

  • Keeping 50.1 million pounds of network scrap materials out of landfills.
  • Donating, reusing or recycling some 77,000 computers, monitors and servers.
  • And sending paperless bills to 17.2 million customers.

Lake said AT&T also has implemented thousands of energy-saving projects across the company, is reducing the size of its product packaging and is developing a free “eco awareness” application to help increase customer awareness of sustainability.

As readers of this blog know, I like to ask folks to share their favorite books. Lake mentioned these four: Passion and Purpose  by  John Mackey , How to Become a Social Intrapreneur  by Nathan Springer, Never Give In  by Winston Churchill, and Art of War by Sun Tzu. If Ms. Lake could invite any four people to dinner, she would pick: Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Angela Merkel, Sir Ken Robinson, and Lady Gaga.

We look forward to hearing more about AT&T’s sustainability initiatives as the company continues to be a leader in the space.  More information about AT&T’s sustainability efforts can be found at

At PK Metals, we take pride in our commitment to sustainability, and enjoy sharing the stories of AT&T and other companies’ sustainability efforts. We have more than 80 employees spread over our 20-acre facility on Long Island, N.Y., working to recycle electronics, metal, and plastic. PK Metals is a R2/RIOS certified electronics recycler, and our subsidiary, e-Green Recycling Management LLC, is R2-, 14001-, and NAID-certified.