Pioneering Solutions for Climate Change with Shannon Thomas Carroll of AT&T

May 30, 2023

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Shannon Thomas Carroll is AVP of Global Environmental Sustainability at AT&T and is responsible for continuing to foster the company’s environmental leadership position, including its drive to carbon neutrality, climate resiliency, waste reduction and broadband-powered climate solutions that support business customers’ carbon reduction goals. Shannon brings 23 years of broad AT&T experience to this role, including expertise in ESG program management, climate mitigation and adaptation strategies, human rights and labor practices, environmental health & safety, supply chain sustainability, regulatory compliance, and circular economy systems.

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John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian and I’m so honored to have with us today Shannon Thomas Carroll. He’s the AVP of Global Environmental Sustainability at the Iconic and great brand AT&T. Welcome to the Impact Podcast. Shannon.

Shannon Thomas Carroll: Thank you very much, John. I appreciate it. Very happy to be here. Thank you also for all the work that you do to kind spread the gospel of corporate social responsibility and sustainability. We are like-minded and I look forward to the conversation.

John: It’s kind of you and I appreciate that and it’s just real honor to have you on. And this is AT&T’s first time on the Impact Podcast for our listeners and viewers and your first time on which always makes it fun for me as well as our listeners and viewers. Shannon, before we get talking about all the important work that you’re doing with your colleagues at AT&T and environment and sustainability. Can you share a little bit about your background, the Shannon Thomas Carroll story, where you grew up, and how you even got on this path?

Shannon: Happy to do that. For me, it’s been a long and whining road to get here. I’m originally from San Diego, California. Grew up there, born and raised. Well, I was raised there but I was born in Hawaii, but that’s a topic for another day. San Diego. Great city, great town. Still, consider it home. I’ve had the fortune of being in Dallas now for several years, and it’s a really great city as well, and I’m very happy to be here. I’ve been with the company for 24 years now. I worked with most of the different parts of the business at some time or another. I actually started out with PAC Bell, for those of you who may remember that in California. And I started out as a service rep on the consumer side, when you called in and there might have been an issue with your phone bill or you were looking to get a call waiting back, I’d be somebody that you would talk to in the call center to make that happen.

John: So, wait a second. So you started off with PAC Bell, but you did get your bachelor’s degree in sustainability and environmental management. So, what informed you to have that kind of vision back then because that wasn’t a hot topic when you were back in college? So, what was your thinking and what was your vision back then to go all in on sustainability and environmental management?

Shannon: Actually, the inspiration in a lot of ways was actually working at AT&T. So I’ll paint with a broad brush here, Coming from California, there’s definitely a sense of the environment. The ocean is there, water resources are scarce. So, you grow up in this environment of appreciating not only nature but understanding the resource constrictions that are around you. So that’s kind of on the brain, so to speak as you grow up in California but I kind of moved around to the different parts of the business. I started with the consumer side then kind of went more to the sales side, and worked with the enterprise business side as well. I worked with the network team and supply chain, and it was really a supply chain. I was there as their compliance manager and just making sure everybody was doing what they were supposed to be doing, taking the training that they were supposed to be taking. And at that time, the supply chain also had a fleet as part of its larger business unit. And within Fleet, there are a lot of EH&S-related issues as you can imagine. So that was really my first professional experience working in terms of EH&S issues and knowing that AT&T had a role to play when it comes when it came to environmental issues. And it was really that work that led me to find out that AT&T had a corporate social responsibility group that was doing our greenhouse gas inventory, looking at our water usage, and trying to drive down energy usage. And as soon as I figured out that was happening, I wanted to be a part of it. And I actually did get my undergraduate in business. But then I went on to pursue my graduate degree in environmental management and sustainability. And it was because of that a boss at a time whom I thought I was his favorite, I went to him and said, “Can I do the sustainability work?” And he said, “Absolutely not.” And I said, “why not?” And he said “It because you have no experience or background or education in it.” And this is about 12, 13 years ago. And maybe longer, 13, 14 years ago. And so at that point, I just decided, “You know what, I don’t know a lot about this academically, I haven’t done a lot of the work professionally outside of some of the EH&S issues I had the opportunity to work on.” And so, I just went and found a graduate program and started doing the work, started sharing my grades and every class. And about a year and a half in, he said, okay, leave me alone, you can do the work. And I really started my sustainability career within the global supply chain for AT&T doing a lot of work not only on the environmental side but on the social side for human rights and labor practice as you can imagine a large supply chain those issues exist. So that’s really where I cut my teeth and I just worked a lot with the corporate sustainability team at that time, and I transitioned over as soon as I had the opportunity and been focusing on the environmental sustainability at AT&T ever since.

John: That’s wonderful. And for our listeners and viewers to find Shannon and his colleagues and all the important work they’re doing at AT&T you could go to their website and check it out at&, I’m on their website now which is chock full of information and important things that they’re up to. And we’re going to get into that. Shannon, here’s the sort of the curse and the blessing of what I’ve learned along the way in interviewing almost 2000 people over the last 16 years or so, ESG sustainability and the word environmental sustainability can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Sitting on top of a very large organization and opportunity, how do you choose and pick what goals and what topics you’re going to work towards in any given annual year and forecast that out in 3 years and 5 years as well?

Shannon: So, the first thing we do is what is material to the business. And that sounds really simple, but there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into that, and within the PSR organization, under our chief sustainability officer, Charlene Lake, we do a materiality assessment every 2 to 3 years. So it’s important, It’s not just AT&T’s perspective on what we should be working on, It’s a stakeholder perspective as well. So that informs a lot of what we do. At the end of the day, we’re a connectivity company so a lot of the work that we’re going to do is around that. And I have colleagues that can talk all day about some of the social work that we do. And it’s great to work around the digital divide and education and volunteering and the philanthropic work that we do. My focus is on the environment. I would argue, the best environmental sustainability team out there that I work with on a day-to-day basis that makes me look good. But to get to your point again, it’s really like we figure out what’s material to the business, what do we have an impact on? And then we really go from there. And as you said we have lots of projects that might go year to year, but we’re always looking out on the long term. So, we’re constantly trying to figure out what is next, trying to read the Tealeaf, so to speak in terms of what should we be working on in the next 2 or 3 years. And as you know, in this world environmental sustainability in particular it’s all about long-term goals. There are very few quick wins in this world and when you get an opportunity to seize them, you do so but when you look at for example, a carbon neutral goal and several companies have something similar, whether it’s net zero carbon neutral, ours will be carbon neutral by 2035 and that’s important in and of itself to have that goal, have that long term goal that kind of informs the entire business on where we should be going and reduce our emissions. But to me, that’s only part of it. The other thing that we take very seriously is making sure that we’re transparent in how we meet those goals and the credibility of that goal. And for us, the credibility part comes in because we have an underlying science-based target that supports that. So, we report annually on our progress towards that goal and make sure it’s within the scientific consensus of what we should be doing from an emission reduction perspective.

John: First of all, going back to your education, talk about a guy who was in the right place, the right time. Your foresight in choosing your path forward in terms of your graduate studies is just almost impeccable. Because when I think back in 04, 03, when I was just launching my recycling company, A, there was no such thing as an iPhone back then that didn’t exist. Al Gore hadn’t come out with the inconvenient truth, and we didn’t have the beginnings of our sustainability push yet here in America. And as we well know, Europe’s culturally, and from a DNA perspective, probably 2 generations ahead of us when it comes to sustainability, environmental sustainability, ESG, and even the circular economy. As is South Korea, and probably Japan as well, mostly because they’re small countries, with very limited land supply. So, it wasn’t just a go-and-throw type of landfill situation. But you are now in the middle of what seems like one of the biggest trends in American business history in terms of the rise of, there’s the shift from the linear circular economy. ESG is for sure here to stay, and the sustainability revolution and environmental protections are here to stay. Whereas you and I didn’t really grow up in grade school with good recycling or environmental practices, we know now our children both in their schooling and in their general life practices are being inundated with good information on how to be more responsible citizens. So, my hat’s off to you for choosing such a great career path, number 1. Number 2, as you said, you’re looking at things from a long-term perspective. I don’t think anything can be more short-term and long-term as is climate change. So when you’re focused on climate change, Shannon, how are you and your colleagues at AT&T approaching that very media-centric topical issue, which is of course affecting us all because the weather patterns throughout this whole great country we live in have shifted everywhere we are and look nothing like they look 15 or 20 years ago.

Shannon: So first, I appreciate your perspective on the profession. They say luck is where preparation meets opportunity, so you have to be prepared. I get asked this a lot because we talk to a lot of college students on a pretty regular basis and they say, how do you get into this work? What do you do? And the first thing is you have to have a passion for it. I do believe that. If you’re going to work in the corporate world, there’s a business acumen you have to have and that’s why I got my bachelor’s in business, that’s important to understand the world and the nomenclature that you’re going to be surrounded by. But if you don’t have a passion for this, you can’t assume everybody else is going to. So it’s really up to us in the sustainability to drive these things. So I love the work that I do. N terms of climate change we have a very holistic view. So anytime you’re looking at climate change, there are definitely 2 sides to the coin. There’s a mitigation side, an emission reduction side, and an adaptation side. How are we going to prepare? So, from that lens, It’s really kind of a three-prong approach for us. So the first thing that we do is talk about the carbon neutral goal, that’s really about how we mitigate, how we reduce our own impact, that’s largely around emissions for us because it’ll be to nobody’s surprise that we use a lot of electricity to power a network, a global network as we do. So, making sure that we’re participating in renewable energy markets, energy efficiency, like that is something we’re always going to have to do not only to show our commitment to the environment but just as good business practices at this point. So, reducing our own emissions is going to be a big part of that. The second thing is, we talked earlier about, at the end of the day, AT&T is a connectivity company.

So how do you leverage that and can you leverage that? And we’re actually very fortunate that you’re hard-pressed to think of environmental sustainability solution in the future. That’s not going to include connectivity. If we wanted to just rest on that, we could, but that’s not what we’re trying to do. We have a very concerted effort to help our business customers reduce their emissions as well. There are like-minded companies that also have carbon-neutral net zero emission reduction goals and we can help them do that. One of the ways that we do that is just offering one of many smart climate solutions is what we call them. That we can offer any of our business customers to help reduce their emissions, but we even go beyond that. We have a public goal to reduce our business customer emissions by one gigaton. That’s 1 billion metric tons. And we’re very transparent in that. I think it’s one thing to set a goal, but for us, we show you how all the sauces are made, we actually show what the methodology is, and we report on it annually. It is open for anybody and everybody to look at and question how we’re doing that. We invite that and want that because credibility is really important when you do something like this. And along those lines with the Gigaton Smart Climate stations, we have a conservative effort. It’s something we call the Connected Climate Initiative. And the idea is that we want like-minded customers who are also trying to minimize their environmental impact to come and work with us and take what we do best and what they do best. And then how do we maximize those two things for emission reductions in a positive kind of business plan as well? So, this is all in the public domain. We gave the website, there’s lots of information there. We have lots of case studies. Very lucky to work with companies like Microsoft, Salesforce, and Deloitte, we love all of our Connected Climate initiative folks, the same. But we have lots of great participation there.

And then the final side and those first two mechanisms really are about the mitigation, driving down global emissions, whether it’s ours or our business customers. The other thing that you have to address, or it’s incomplete, is really the adaptation side or the climate resiliency side. It’s no longer that climate change is going to affect us in the future. No, it’s affecting us now. And we know that you can ask the city of Houston, They’ve had several hundred-year floods just over the last few years. So what are you going to do to prepare your physical infrastructure for the inevitable impacts of these extreme weather events? And the weather is just what’s happening today, and climate is weather over time. For us, there’s a big part of it is we have a significant physical infrastructure on the ground. So, we have obviously sales powers, we have fiber, we have central offices, all these things that we need to look at. So what we’re doing is we’re taking the best available client data that we can get our hands on and we actually do 2 things with it internally. One, and I think that’s the most powerful thing is we actually have already implemented into our network design and planning tools. So, what that means is, as AT&T is building out tomorrow’s network, it already has climate risk scores. It already has climate data as part of that design and planning.

So we can be better prepared as we decide where to put things and how to build them out for these extreme weather events. The other thing that we’re doing is looking at what we have on the ground today. So where is the central office that may be a little more susceptible to flooding? And once we identify that, then we can take steps to adapt and put solutions in there to protect that central office. Because think about this from an extreme weather perspective, what’s the first thing, other than your own personal safety everybody does? They pick up their cell phones and they want to call their family to tell them they’re okay. They want to call their family to see if they’re okay. And we take that responsibility very seriously. So having a network that has prepared for climate change is really important. But we don’t stop there on the climate data, what we do and what we did recently to a continued collaboration with Argon National Labs, we’ve been working to get our climate data for many years now. We’re also working with FEMA and AT&T just launched along with FEMA and Argon National Labs, It’s called CLIMRR, the Climate risking Resilience portal.

And that’s C-L-I-M-R-R, CLIMRR. We love our acronyms, In this world. So, it’s CLIMRR, it’s a collaboration between AT&T, Argonne, and FEMA. And really that’s so impactful because it allows public officials, and community leaders who might not have easy access to climate data. It gives them a very easy portal to go through and get access. So, think if you’re an emergency planner for the local municipality, you’re not sure which bridge needs to be reinforced, and you’re not sure which roads are going to be impacted by extreme flooding in the future. We’ve helped provide that data with Argonne National Labs, and now through that FEMA portal you can go in and you can start looking at that, whether you’re just a community advocate or you’re an emergency manager in the local municipality. It’s for everybody and folks can go and get that data today.

John: For our listeners and viewers who just joined us, we’ve got Shannon Thomas Carroll with us. He’s the AVP of Global Environmental Sustainability at AT&T. To find Shannon and his great colleagues and the important work they’re doing, please go to at& So, wait a second, what I should have asked you earlier is obviously you have your offices in Dallas, but how many offices does AT&T have nationally and internationally, potentially, and how many employees? Just so we can understand the size and scope of what you’re doing and how big this organization really is.

Shannon: So, I’ll paint with a broad brush here. We have hundreds obviously of kind of what you think of the large, big kind of offices throughout the United States and internationally as well. But we have thousands, tens of thousands of smaller buildings. Think of, sometimes you’ll drive by in the neighborhood and you’ll see kind of that square beige building with an AT&T logo, that’s essential office. That’s really important because all of the fiber, everything that’s from a communication perspective whether it’s on the fiber side or the mobile side, is coming through that central office. So the importance of making sure that works is really important. You’ll walk through your neighborhood with your dog and you’ll probably walk by a little green box, that’s also the type of equipment that we look at. So, it’s tens of thousands of pieces of equipment and small offices, hundreds and hundreds of larger buildings. We do have a global footprint. Our first foray into this is really on the domestic side because that’s where we can get the best climate data. So, what we’ve done is, this started as a pilot and just to answer your question as well, I don’t know the exact number, but I know we’re just over 200,000 employees.

John: That’s huge.

Shannon: We’re a pretty big company. We started as a pilot and we didn’t know necessarily what we were doing when we started our climate change journey. We had a lot of smart people internally, a lot of technical resources we could take advantage of but we weren’t climate scientists as much as I like to think. I know I am not a climate scientist. So we said let’s find some climate scientists to work with. Let’s find some good climate data and we did that through Argonne. We launched this in the southeast. So, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, are very susceptible to extreme weather events and said let’s see if we can figure this out in a small geographic area. The idea then was let’s just get what the extreme weather’s going to be from flooding. So that’s both coastal and limb, extreme wind as well, and let’s see what we can do in terms of identifying where our risk is.

Because what happens is just instinctively and maybe historically what you want to do is say everything along the coast, let’s protect that. Everything inland maybe needs less protection from a hurricane perspective. But as you look at the data and you let the data drive your decision making, and you combine that with the historical, don’t get me wrong, but when you look at that, you realize not everything on the coast is equally susceptible or at risk to extreme weather events. So what that allows you to do is free up some resources and allocate them somewhere else. Because all resources are finite no matter what they’re. So, we did that and honestly, it was a long haul to do that but we were able to make it work. And once we’re able to make it work, we just launched it through the continuous 48 for the entire United States. So now we have that view for the entire United States and it was really important for us too, to not just look at extreme weather events on the coast.

We really wanted to make sure we’re looking at the middle of the United States because we have a footprint everywhere. So coastal flooding is often what you’ll see on the news, but inland flooding can be just as damaging as just as important. Extreme wind can be just as important. Drought information is something we have that’s very important depending on the region that you’re in. So now we have all of these different categories of climate data that we can look at. And again, water impacts a fiber connection very differently than it impacts a cell tower. Heat impacts a cooling tower very differently than it impacts a building. So we now have the ability to do that throughout our domestic footprint and just be better informed to protect our network. And not only our network but also our operations overall. We started using it for strictly network purposes, but we now have the ability to use it beyond that. So think retail stores, are they susceptible? Want to make sure their customers have access to them, and where do we make decisions in terms of those locations? So, there are lots of different things that you can do with this data. And as you can see, I’m very excited about it and it’s really been a game-changer for us at AT&T.

John: Well, what I hear when you’re talking about all the great programs you have, you started your career in the supply chain side and you got very familiar with supply chain, which is very important to the inward-facing operations of what you do at AT&T and you figured out goals in sustainability and environment there, then you also now focus on the outward and empower your clients and your users to also get very involved and also make better and more informed decisions. How is that balancing act done by you and your colleagues in terms of when you have your own limited resources of your time and your leadership team’s time do we focus on inward operations this month or outward? And how is that toggle work on a regular, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis for you at AT&T?

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Shannon: So, as you can imagine there are lots of moving parts when you’re making those decisions but one thing to talk about is, can we do this at scale? Can we replicate this? Very early on when we were looking at the climate data, 30 seconds into it, you’re, you’re thinking like this is great. We’re going to have the best climate data as far as we knew at the time, we were the only ones doing it but then we talked to your chief sustainability officer and she says climate change is where we collaborate from. And why that’s important is, it doesn’t do AT&T any good if we’re climate resilient in a vacuum. I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to say it. We need everybody. All the communities are value chains. We need everybody to be climate resilient. Be prepared, because it’s one of those things in this world, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. So, we’ve had folks ask us if you’re putting your climate data out there, but what about your competitors? Please go out there and get this.

The great thing is the data itself comes from Argonne National Lab. This is not AT&T Climate Scientist, this is an independent organization, part of the DOE, which does a lot of the climate modeling for the government already. And they have the best North American climate model out there. So from that perspective, why not, even though we funded that and gave them the ability to, and really I’ll just say this when it comes to kind of our participation and working with Argonne, how it really came together is, they have the expertise from a climate modeling perspective, but what they were doing is they were getting climate data and they gave you one point covering 12 kilometers, and that was world-class at the time. But you talk to a network engineer about making a decision on the network for one Tata point over 12 kilometers, that’s a short conversation. They need something actionable and what we do is we call it neighborhood-level climate data. And that’s really what we’ve funded Argonne national lab to do, to give us that climate or that neighborhood-level climate data. So, when it comes to coastal flooding, we’re able to get data points within a few meters.

When it comes to inland flooding, we’re now at 200 meters, and we’re trying to work to get even closer than that. So, we need actionable climate data. The other thing that we do in terms of what do we work on? The first thing we want to do is make sure we’re doing something that we have some expertise around. Like why are we working on something that we can’t provide any value to? So, we want to provide expertise, we want to as much as possible make it as simple as possible and we get into climate data, sometimes there can be challenges but we’re trying to make that as simple as possible for people to use. An example of that would be CLIMRR, you can go on and just look at maps if you’re not in the data. And then we want to be inspirational. Like how do we motivate others to do what we’re doing, just like we’ve been motivated by what others do? And so this is an area where we should all steal shamelessly from each other when it comes to our ideas around environmental sustainability and the best path to get there.

John: That’s a brilliant point. I’m so glad you said that Shannon, in terms of, this this is not a zero-sum game. We want everyone to succeed because we’re all in this boat together. The environment has no borders. So, we don’t want anyone liquidating the environment or doing any harm. We want the ocean to go up, so all the boats go up. So speaking of that, what continues to inspire you in terms of when you benchmark all the great work you’re doing at AT&T with your colleagues in environmental sustainability? Where do you look for, how do I say this the right way? Future guidance on not where the puck is today. As Gretzky used to say, where the puck is going in environmental sustainability?

Shannon: That’s right. I’m not a big hockey guy, but I know Gretzky’s the goat.

John: Neither am I.

Shannon: But I know that much. So, some of the inspiration you really have is to split your focus in a good way. So you wanted to take advantage of what’s happening within your own ecosystem, within AT&T. And we have so many people now that are focused on this, quite frankly, make my job very easy. So a few years ago, there was one person working on climate resiliency. Now there are two full-time people. And that’s full-time plus we have lots of other folks supporting us with either most of, or some of their time. So there’s an all actuality working on climate resiliency right now, there’s several people if not double digits. And then you have the same version of that happening. We’re doing more and more on the consumer side. How do we help our consumers be more environmentally sustainable? And as we go into the business units, they’re starting to raise their hand and say we’ve been waiting for somebody to ask us this question. We have this idea there, we’re highly dependent on our business unit to make things happen.

The various business unit partners make things happen. So when we go and work with AT&T’s energy team within the network, we need them to cosign everything that we do. They’re the experts on how to run the network, and how to make it more energy efficient. So, there are a lot of times that their day-to-day job is making sure that network is the most resilient network in the world. But a lot of them have great thoughts and inspiration about how to do it in a more environmentally friendly way or more energy efficient way. So we’re able to collaborate on that end and really is happening now in all aspects, including even with that connected climate initiative. So, we think we have this great idea to bring people together, and one of our collaborators comes and says, have you guys thought about doing it this way? And we go, well, no, but we will now. So you have to take advantage of all the internal kind of resources that you have, the human resources that you have, and then you have to look at what your peers are doing, what your competitors are doing, what’s happening beyond your industry, even I think a lot of times within the larger ICT industry, we all look at each other as we should. And what I encourage my team myself to do is look beyond that. What are other industries doing? And are they considering something that maybe we haven’t considered today but should be considering tomorrow?

John: I’m on your website now, and again for our listeners and viewers, your website’s just great in terms of the information at& I’m looking at your July 22 impact report and ESG report actually. Speaking of resources and teamwork and vision, how much time from your team goes into assisting the others and the other divisions in that ESG summary that you guys publish every year?

Shannon: So that is a big lift and the ESG summary, the CSR summary as we call it. That’s an annual report that we do for a lot of different reasons. So one, we have a lot of external stakeholders, including investors who want to know what is AT&T doing on all these important issues. So it’s good to have a place for everybody to go. But beyond that, there’s no limited number, there’s an infinite number of external stakeholders doing different things that are just interested in this. So, we want to make sure that that’s available in terms of the time and the effort that it takes. It’s essentially a year-long process when you think about it, kind of preparing for everything that you need. My team plays a large role in the sense that a lot of the data from the environmental side is obviously coming from my team, and we’re working with the business units to get that. So think of the greenhouse gas inventory report.

What are we reporting on scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 because you do it all? But there are also a lot of other contributors just from the aspect of if you go into that report, which I encourage everybody to do. It’s going to talk a lot about what we’re doing on the digital divide, from the social side, that’s really important. And we can play a significant role in closing the individual divide in this company. So, we have all types of business unit partners and the CSR organization that is doing that. The heavy lifting actually comes from a colleague of mine, Jason Lek, and his team. They are responsible for hurting all the cats and getting everything together and producing it in a way that’s easily digestible as well. I think sometimes the danger is the environmental sustainability work gets really complicated really fast and the onus is on us as professionals to make it easier to understand by the average person who has some interest in this. And we can’t assume that everybody’s a sustainability professional that’s looking at this, Jason’s team does an outstanding job of making a very readable, very user-friendly very narrative approach. There’s all the data you could possibly want in there but we want to make sure folks that are reading that, whether you’re a high-level investor who knows a lot about this and maybe undergrad or a high school student is wondering what corporations are doing around this. It’s accessible by each.

John: That’s brilliant, because like you said, these very sophisticated analysts and institutional investors out there, but there’s a man and woman on the street that loves AT&T, uses your services, and wants to know whom they’re supporting, whom they’re writing checks to. So that comes out every July. It’s an annual event that comes out every July.

Shannon: Correct. And we’re ready to launch the new one very soon.

John: That’s exciting. And Shannon, as you and I know there’s no finish line in the sustainability race, in the sustainability journey, so can you share or us a few things that get you out OF bed in the morning and what’s to come for AT&T’s innovative sustainability journey?

Shannon: So, I’m excited about it all, but I probably have a problem. So, I love to think about something like, I’ve been with the company for 24 years, but I plan to be here when we meet our carbon-neutral goal. So that’s making sure that we’re consistently making progress towards that and that we’re challenging to do things in a way beyond what we’ve normally done. And when we say innovation specifically. I just think there’s so much, and a lot of the technology exists today, but I think there’s so much untapped opportunity around IOT and around the connectivity with that, whether it’s 5G or edge networks and things of that nature. So, think about a world where every device that consumes energy has the ability to report real-time energy usage. That’s not only important from a reporting perspective, it’s also important because if you’re managing a corporation like AT&T with thousands and thousands of assets and you pay a really large energy bill, that all these pieces of equipment consume, being able to spot in real-time, some kind of anomaly, like this piece of equipment X is running 30% or is using 30% more energy than it normally would, and being able to get in there and make an adjustment, do preventative maintenance, make fixes to that in real-time. When you look at that in the aggregate, that may not be a big footprint for that piece of equipment, but when you look at that in the aggregate, that’s potentially millions of dollars in savings.

Millions of tons of emissions. And then you go beyond AT&T. Think of almost anything out there, whether it’s a waste dumpster. How often do they get dumped, If you throw an IOT sensor on there, you can better think about exactly when to dump it, not just every Thursday, but when it’s full. How many resources do you save by doing that? Think about a manufacturing plant that has various pieces of equipment in there, something goes wrong on the assembly line and you have that real-time instant connectivity IOT solution that says something just went wrong. You can go fix that. So, I think like real-time not only data, but real-time reporting of data, anytime you can look at real-time energy data, you can also look at real-time emissions data. So if you’re particularly focused on your emissions we should all be focused on the cost and we should never be ashamed to say that. But if you’re also looking at reducing your emissions and you see something as even if it’s a minimum cost to your company in terms of the amount of energy that machine is using, what if it’s a high emissions machine? You can immediately identify that, correct it, and make sure that you don’t have too many emissions on that piece of equipment.

And then do that aggregate on a global scale, to me that’s really innovative. And even if we go beyond that, we talk about the carbon market a lot. Think about a scenario in which carbon direct air capture is becoming a very real thing. When you do that, you need to validate it, you need to monitor it, you need to track it, and you’re going to do that through connectivity and IOT sensors. And think about a world where you actually have real-time carbon offsets being generated and sold. So I think from that perspective a lot of this technology exists. I just think there’s so much opportunity to kind of start using it on a mass scale. And once we start doing that, we’ll figure out new solutions beyond that.

John: Well, I’m going to just tell you something, I love your goal of being at AT&T Shannon, when you guys hit all your net zero goals and everything else, you’re working on. And what I want to offer to you is I want you to come back as often as you want, come back every year or more, and share the progress you’re making at AT&T because it’s so important that others hear, like you said in the beginning, in the beginning, it’s always it’s a tough start. You don’t know where to begin and you don’t know how it’s going to go, but people just got to get on this sustainability journey and just put one foot in front of the other and get going because it’s fun once you get going, as I can see here with just you and all the amazing things you get to do every day, there’s never a boring day. But I just want to thank you again for coming to the show. You’re Beyond inspirational, Shannon Thomas Carroll, the AVP of Global Environmental Sustainability at AT&T. Please check out him and his colleagues and all the important work they’re doing in environmental sustainability at Shannon, thank you for the impact you’re making on this planet. Thank you for making the world a better place, and I can’t wait to have you back on the Impact Podcast Show.

Shannon: All right, thanks, John.

John: This episode of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Close Loop Partners. Closed Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of Fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts, and impact partners. Closed loops platform spans the arc of capital from venture capital to private equity bridging gaps and fostering synergies. To scale the circular economy, the fine closed loop partners, please go to This edition of The Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit

In addition to working on climate mitigation and adaptation for our business, AT&T wants to help others reduce emissions and prepare for climate-related extreme weather events. For more on how we can help on your journey to net-zero emissions, please check out And look up the Climate Risk and Resilience Portal for free access to cutting-edge projections of future climate conditions that can help you better understand your extreme weather risks.