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Sunday May 19th, 2024

Dialog: Driving Sustainability in Digital Inclusion and Green Economy

Asanga Priyadarshana, Group Chief of Risk and Compliance

Asanga Priyadarshana, Group Chief of Risk and Compliance, and Head of Sustainability of Dialog Axiata PLC, explains how the company integrates sustainability in driving digital inclusion with a strong focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to achieve net-zero status by 2050. Dialog’s green energy efforts have already surpassed 2023 targets by 231%, while its wide range of initiatives for digital inclusion emphasizes its commitment to societal betterment.

How does Dialog Axiata integrate sustainability practices to drive digital inclusion, and be environmentally friendly and socially responsible? 

As Sri Lanka’s #1 connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata serves over 17 million customers and is committed to empowering Sri Lankan lives and enterprises with a sustainability strategy that aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Aiming for a greener future, Dialog plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45% by 2030, targeting net zero by 2050. Remarkably, in 2023, the company exceeded its emissions reduction goal by 231%, achieving a reduction of 7,653.26 tCO2e.

Dialog’s sustainability efforts are multifaceted, focusing on environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and digital inclusion. Initiatives such as DeafTawk, Petralex, and, Diriya, Saviya, ekunu, Karuna, Vaayu and Neth Suwaya showcase the company’s commitment to leveraging technology for societal benefits, ensuring inclusivity and equity. Further, the company supports the Ratmalana Audiology Centre and Jaffna Speech Therapy Centre, aiding individuals with hearing and speech issues. Dialog has also made strides in accessibility, updating its website for people with disabilities (PWDs), hosting an internship programme for PWDs, and participating in GSMA’s global inclusion initiatives.

Significant contributions have been made in agriculture and fishing, with services such as Govi Mithuru and Sayuru aiding half of the country’s farmers and fishermen, respectively. Govi Mithuru services have supported a 30% surge in crop yield and bolstered national food security, while Sayuru services enabled zero fatalities among the fishing communities, compared to an annual average of seven deaths previously. In education, Dialog has invested over Rs 1 billion since 2003, supporting initiatives such as the Nenasa TV and Smart Schools programmes, benefiting 1.7 million households and enhancing distance education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s healthcare contributions include supporting the Ministry of Health (MoH) and National Hospital with technology solutions and infrastructure improvements, particularly during the pandemic.

In addition to these endeavours, Dialog’s sustainability reporting, governance and transparency have been honoured at the ACCA Sustainability Reporting Awards 2023 and the company was ranked #1 by Transparency International Sri Lanka.

 Could you highlight how you measure and report on the success of these initiatives?

Dialog Axiata employs a comprehensive approach, underscored by stringent governance standards, to evaluate and report the success of its initiatives.

The company upholds transparency and accountability through continuous measurement and quarterly reporting to its Board Risk and Compliance Committee and Directors. This is further strengthened by our adoption of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) performance reporting framework along with the adoption of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in 2008, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 and Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) standards. These measures ensure Dialog’s environmental and social initiatives are fully integrated into its strategic objectives, facilitating effective progress tracking and decision-making.

Engaging stakeholders is crucial for advancing sustainability goals. How does Dialog Axiata align its employees, business partners, and the communities it operates in to a common ESG vision? 

In championing sustainability, we have a comprehensive programme in place that engages all employees, embedding Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles across all operations. In addition, we have aligned our efforts with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and GSMA frameworks, which not only guide us in maintaining a sharp focus on ESG priorities but also simplify the process of keeping our stakeholders well informed. Further, we have appointed a specialized ESG point of contact (SPOC) for each department, ensuring ESG values are deeply integrated into our core business activities. These SPOCs play a pivotal role in driving ESG initiatives within their sectors, making sustainability a cornerstone of our corporate culture. This strategic approach ensures our commitment to sustainability is more than just words—it’s a fundamental part of how we operate, uniting employees, partners, and communities around a shared ESG vision.

Looking ahead, what are the key challenges and opportunities you see for Dialog Axiata and the broader telecommunications sector in Sri Lanka regarding sustainability? 

Facing the dual challenge of climate change and a global energy crisis, the telecommunications sector in Sri Lanka, heavily reliant on hydroelectric power, confronts significant sustainability hurdles. Persistent droughts further strain this vulnerability, underscoring the imperative of embracing renewable energy solutions. Amidst these challenges, our strategic pivot towards renewable energy for our network infrastructure is a testament to our commitment to minimizing our environmental footprint and mitigating the financial implications of rising energy costs. This transition not only reduces our greenhouse gas emissions but also sets a benchmark for the industry, demonstrating how proactive measures can cultivate a more sustainable and economically viable telecommunications ecosystem. By adopting this forward-thinking approach, Dialog is actively contributing to building a more sustainable and robust energy foundation for the telecommunications sector and the broader community. Our endeavours in championing sustainability across all facets of our business are a testament to our promise of a healthier planet, driving forward with integrity, innovation, and inclusivity at the heart of every decision we make.