By Dana Haidan, Chief Sustainability Officer, Virgin Media O2 

Today marks the 54th celebration of Earth Day, a day set out to celebrate our amazing planet and to call on governments, communities, and businesses to take action for nature conservation and a healthier Earth. 

Since 1970, Earth Day has mobilised over 1 billion people to fight for our planet’s health and has grown at a significant rate internationally, demonstrating the power of education and advocacy.  For many like myself who work in sustainability, we live and breathe the essence of Earth Day every day to ensure we are driving change and keeping the planet on every agenda.  

I want to use today as an opportunity to share the work we’re doing at Virgin Media O2 to minimise our impact on the planet. While we still have a lot to do, we’re learning through this journey as much about our challenges as we are about the opportunities that have helped us make amazing progress over the past few years. In 2022, we launched our Better Connections plan – our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy which is a binding commitment that helps us ensure our entire business operates in a sustainable and ethical way.   

Committed to zero-waste 

This year, Earth Day’s theme is Planet vs Plastic with a bold target to reduce global plastic production by 60% by 2040. This will take a herculean effort and a real drive to innovate and rethink the way we design products, partner with suppliers, and engage with government on the policy reform needed to make this goal a reality.  

As a business, we’re committed to reaching zero waste operations and products by the end of 2025, and ensure 100% of customer packaging of own-branded products are widely recyclable and contain no single-use plastic.   

We continue to work closely with manufacturers and suppliers at all stages, from design to manufacturing and shipping, to eliminate waste and use materials that can be easily recycled. 

A more circular economy 

With the UK producing the second most e-waste per person in the world, it’s vital that we take bold action to combat the growing problem of electronic waste. This is why we have a number of schemes in place to extend the life of handsets and broadband and TV kit, whether that’s through recycling old devices lying around at home, a handset needing repair, ensuring your old device is reused when upgrading and giving customers the option of a great Like New handset range.  

Our pioneering O2 Recycle initiative launched in 2009 and has saved more than 4 million devices from landfill. O2 Recycle gives consumers (on any mobile network) the opportunity to recycle mobiles, laptops and gaming consoles in return for cash. It is a network-agnostic scheme; anyone regardless of which network they use can hand over their devices to us for recycling as we believe some challenges require of collaborative solutions, and e-waste is one of the most pressing challenges of our time. You can find out more about O2 Recycle here. 

We also offer a range of refurbished handsets which are checked for everything from scuffed screens to cracked cases and sold in ‘like new’ condition, ensuring that we’re extending the life of handsets while also offering more affordable handset options for customers 

In addition, we also operate a leasing scheme for our TV set-up boxes and routers which helps us ensure the hardware is returned to us at the end of the contract instead of being disposed of. Over 11 million routers and set-top boxes have been refurbished and reused since 2014. 

We also believe we have a responsibility to look beyond our four walls and play a role in raising awareness of e-waste in the UK and supporting innovative solutions that help tackle the problem. In partnership with environmental charity Hubbub, we launched our second Time after Time e-waste fund, awarding grants of between £25,000 and £100,000 for creative UK projects that help close the digital divide while reducing e-waste. To date, 8 projects from around the UK have been awarded grants to help them scale up. We’ve also run hackathons and engagement events with Universities across the country to raise awareness of the issue of e-waste and the role Gen Z can play. We published earlier this year a State of The Nation report focusing on the attitudes and behaviours of Gen Z towards handset reuse and recycling and providing recommendations to both the industry and government to address the issue. You can find it here.  

This Earth Day we’re also running a promo on our TV platform where Virgin TV customers can access a specialty curated on-demand collection of shows and films, highlighting the effect of plastic waste on the planet. The collection is made up of 16 titles including Sky documentaries such as Plastic Nile, Channel 4’s The Great Climate Fight and Discovery’s The Great Global Clean Up. We also created a 60-second film, to be repeated across Channel 100, to highlight the problem of e-waste and how consumers can tackle it by sustainably disposing of their unwanted devices, rather than them ending up in landfill.      

Sustainable choices through the customer journey 

We’re helping consumers to make informed choices about the products and services that they’re using.  By sharing Eco Rating scores, we’re helping consumers identify and compare the most sustainable mobile phones – encouraging suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of their devices. 

With ticketless pricing in our retail stores helping to reduce paper waste, nudges through the online customer journey and digitisation of product manuals we’re continually looking at ways to reduce the impact of our operations and products, for the customer and the planet.  

Building a carbon-free future 

We’re also committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions across our entire value chain by 2040 and we’re proud to be making positive progress already.  In 2023, we exceeded our scope 1 and 2 target by reducing carbon emissions by 45% against our 2020 baseline, and we remain on target to deliver our 2040 net zero carbon plan. We have a number of measures in place to ensure we achieve these bold milestones, including: 

  • Investing in renewable electricity and energy efficiency initiatives 
  • Cutting carbon emissions as we transition to electric vehicles by the end of 2030 
  • Working with suppliers to adopt science-based carbon reduction plans 


Read more about our Net Zero commitment here. 

Children born today will be the most impacted by the worst effects of global warming, and seeing the havoc climate change is wreaking already, that thought scares me. I used to say ‘for the sake of future generations…’ but now we know climate change is here and it’s real. So for the sake of our children, we can’t afford to be cynical or to be pessimistic. That’s why despite working in a field which can be filled with doom and gloom headlines at the moment, I remain optimistic about the future. Businesses like ours have a huge role to play in helping citizens navigate how to act in the face of climate change and I’m proud of the work we’re doing. It’s on all of us to create change and take action for our beautiful planet.  

Journalists can contact the Virgin Media O2 press office on: 01753 565656
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