Green issues are still high on the telco agenda despite the recession, says Ovum.
The research firm says sustainability and environmental initiatives can help telcos cut costs and improve brand perception as well as help tackle climate change.
"Apart from the feel good factor that comes with knowing you are doing your bit to save the planet, there are a number of other benefits to be gained from implementing green initiatives throughout the telecoms business," says Sally Banks, an Ovum senior analyst.
She said telcos faced costs in identifying and carrying out green policies, but the both financial savings and revenue generating opportunities far outweighed the initial outlay.
With carriers struggling for growth in the face of slowing service takeup, they need to look at ways of staying ahead of their competitors, Banks said.
Great opportunities for operators also lie in helping other businesses to reduce their carbon footprint.
With investors and customers alike scrutinizing enterprise CSR practices, it is in the operators' interest to be seen to be doing its part.
This can play an important role in brand differentiation and often forms part of the qualifying criteria for partnering with and supplying some businesses.
Using renewable energy sources to power networks and mobile base stations and natural resources from sustainable sources are just a couple of examples of operator initiatives, but there is still more that operators can do, Banks said.
For example: recycling materials from phones, networks and offices, improving battery life of mobile phones, cutting energy use and using more energy efficient technologies.
Telcos have started using fresh air cooling systems for data centers rather than high-energy air-conditioning systems and have switched their fleet fuel from diesel or petrol to LPG.
"Introducing environmentally-friendly initiatives is only part of the challenge of implementing a green strategy," Banks said.
"However, in order for it to succeed, telecoms operators need to ensure the full co-operation of its employees, establish credible key performance indicators that can measure progress and importantly send consistent marketing messages pertaining to its green credentials", says Banks.
Estimates suggest that telecoms can achieve a 1-2% reduction in global carbon emissions by implementing green initiatives within their operations.
However, the telecommunications industry is expected to enable other businesses to reduce emissions by up to five times this amount, highlighting the role telcos can play in enabling a green economy.
Ovum expects a lot more activity by players that have yet to implement sustainability policies as it becomes a corporate requirement to be green and as legislation becomes more stringent in this space.