IHS Towers: “When it comes to ESG, we want to be best-in-class among tower operators”
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IHS Towers: “When it comes to ESG, we want to be best-in-class among tower operators”


An interview with Colby Synesael, Senior Vice President of Communications, IHS Towers

Ahead of the annual TowerXchange Meetup Americas 2022, we speak to Colby Synesael, Senior Vice President for Communications at IHS Towers on the company's approach to ESG.

As the new the Senior Vice President of Communications at IHS Towers, how would you describe IHS Towers’ current approach to environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects of its operations globally? 

Colby Synesael, Senior Vice President of Communications, IHS Towers: 

We believe that our business model is inherently sustainable. Firstly, we deliver shared infrastructure solutions in emerging markets that promote digital connectivity and inclusion and seek to improve the lives of the communities we serve. This encourages greater access to education, healthcare and financial services, while the infrastructure sharing reduces the environmental footprint of the telecom landscape in our geographies. Second, our colocation model, which provides customers with opportunities to lease space on existing towers alongside current tenants, not only reduces the overall cost but also the overall environmental footprint of the telecom landscape in our geographies. Increased infrastructure sharing means less equipment, reduced emission duplications, reduced maintenance visits and safety risks, and saving road kilometers driven.

We do not believe that our responsibilities end with the advantages inherent to our business model, and we aim to ensure continuous improvement by taking a strategic approach to sustainability. Our sustainability strategy is based on four pillars: 1) Ethics and governance, 2) Environment and climate change, 3) Education and economic growth, and 4) Our people and communities.  

What will be your ESG priorities for the CALA region for the next few years? 

Colby Synesael, Senior Vice President of Communications, IHS Towers: 

During 2022 and beyond, IHS Towers intends to focus increasingly on the environment to help mitigate climate change across our operations. We believe that carbon emissions from our towers’ energy consumption is our main environmental impact, as we have traditionally used diesel generators to provide the consistent power to our towers and sites that our customers need in emerging markets where electricity grids can be unreliable or even unavailable. While this is particularly true in Africa, we believe this will become a growing area of focus in LatAm as towers are built in more rural areas and thus will be a focus there as well.

We announced during the Q1 2022 Earnings Call in May that we have begun working on a plan that we internally refer to as ‘Project Green’ to identify areas where we can further reduce our consumption of diesel. We are already helping to mitigate the impact of this by installing hybrid power systems and investing in renewable energy sources where possible. These actions contribute towards the reduction of emissions. This fall, we aim to present the Project Green plan to the investor community, which we expect to include thoughts on how we may be able to reduce diesel consumption further, and, over what period of time, the size of the required investment.  

A strong ESG strategy is an important indicator to investors that a company is conducting business in a responsible and ethical manner, that it is a trustworthy partner in the telecom ecosystem. How important is ESG in a company’s ability to secure funding from international investors? How does that affect your communications strategy? 

Colby Synesael, Senior Vice President of Communications, IHS Towers:

Over the last few years, we have seen an increasing interest from international investors towards our ESG performance and impact. The investor community now understands that ESG risks may be as important as any other type of financial risk, and the value of a company can be measured in terms of economic and social performance as well as by its contribution to society. Investors integrate ESG into their investment processes and use ESG information from a variety of sources to determine an investment decision. When it comes to ESG, we want to be best-in-class among tower operators, and when it comes to how we operate and disclose information, we are continuously evaluating how to improve.  

What methodologies do you use to set your ESG goals? Do you use any recognised international standards to measure your performance against? 

Colby Synesael, Senior Vice President of Communications, IHS Towers: 

We are continuously developing our ESG KPIs, which are guided by external sustainability frameworks such as the United Nations Global Compact. We review progress in our sustainability work through a reporting process, which plays an important role in delivering our sustainability strategy. We track our ESG KPIs internally on a quarterly basis and provide comprehensive overview of how we manage our most material ESG topics in our annual sustainability reports, which aim to provide stakeholders a clear view of our performance.

Could you tell us a little more about the ways in which you engage with the local communities and how this informs your operations? 

Colby Synesael, Senior Vice President of Communications, IHS Towers: 

Each year, our in-country teams are assigned a Sustainability budget and assess local community needs through the lens of our four-pillar Sustainability strategy to help develop our in-country Sustainability programs, aiming to identify clear actions and commitments for relevant projects. In 2021, our sustainability spend was almost $7.1m, targeted at supporting local schools, education initiatives, health clinics and wider programs to make positive impact in the communities in which we operate. 

IHS Towers operate in some African markets where the grid is unreliable, and access to alternative energy sources in essential from an operational perspective. How does this compare to the markets in Latin America? 

Colby Synesael, Senior Vice President of Communications, IHS Towers: 

As I noted in a previous question, our business in Latin America does not have the same operational requirements as our African business, however as we embark on more new builds in rural areas in LatAm we expect to see a greater need for more sites that do not have grid connectivity. In these situations, we expect to be able to apply what we have learned in our African markets to our LatAm markets. 


Colby Synesael will be speaking at the annual TowerXchange Meetup Americas, taking place on 13-14 July 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida, US. For more information, please visit https://meetup.towerxchange.com/americas

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