April 15th, 2011


Former CEO, Sprint


Sprint wants to be recognized as the green leader in the wireless industry, said CEO Dan Hesse in a return visit to Climate One on Friday, April 15, in San Francisco. Hesse used visit his second visit to Climate One in less than a year to warn against the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, and to announce the release of the fourth phone in Sprint’s green series, the Samsung Replenish.

"As we meet here today," Hesse said, in prepared remarks, "the innovative power of the wireless industry is under serious threat" by the proposed AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile. Much had already been written about the possible implications of the move for consumers and pricing, he said, "but to my surprise, very little attention had been paid to its potential impact on the wireless industry’s ability to foster innovation" – including innovation in the green space.

"Wireless technology helps consumers by providing new ways to reduce, re-use, and recycle," said Hesse. Take telecommuting. Just 3.9 percent of Americans regularly work outside the office, he said, even though wireless technology gives them access to the all of the information stored at their office desks. Beginning in 2008, Hesse said, employees in their Atlanta office were permitted to work from home three days per week.

Hesse said Sprint is also working to address one of the industry’s lingering dilemmas: waste. Just 10 percent of mobiles phones are recycled each year in the United States, he said, meaning some 140 million phones end up in landfills. In 2008, Sprint set a goal to recycle 90 percent of the phones it sells. The company's buyback plan, launched last year, offers credits towards a new phone with the turn-in of used phones. Sprint will accept up to three phones, which can come from any mobile company. Hesse said Sprint is now about halfway to meeting its recycling target.

The new Samsung Replenish "is as green as we could make it," said Hesse – energy-efficient, housed in recycled plastics, and made from 82 percent recyclable materials. (Customers can also spring for a $29 back panel solar charger.)  In an effort to "take green really mainstream," Hesse said, Sprint is lowering the monthly rate for the Replenish by $10 per month.

The green moves and others – including connecting ECOtality’s Blink electric vehicle charging network, purchasing wind energy for its corporate headquarters, and upgrading the energy efficiency of its network – are done to improve the company’s brand, Hesse said, but also to motivate employees. "The thing about green is your people want to make it. They’re excited and love the fact that this is what we're really focusing on, and that we have made it to a goal they care about," Hesse said. "I've had zero pushback in getting people aligned and wanting to do it."


– Justin Gerdes
April 15, 2011
Photos by Ed Ritger 
The Commonwealth Club of California