Prysmian Group ECO CABLE: first cables with ‘green certification in the industry

green fiber

Prysmian is committed to increasing its revenue from low-polluting products, increasing waste recycling, and cutting down on emissions. With the ECO CABLE initiative, Prysmian Group is strengthening its sustainability strategy and active role as a promoter of a sustainable development while also accelerating its race to net-zero CO2 emissions.

“With ECO CABLE, Prysmian pledges to provide transparent and clear indications and information on the ‘greenness’ of our cables based on our three key drivers: sustainability, reliability, and quality. A data-driven threshold has been set, and any cable that passes that threshold receives ECO CABLE-certification. All of Prysmian Group’s optical telecom cables have now been assessed, as well as the full range of the copper so-called Category cables, and some 30% of the portfolio is currently ECO CABLE compliant. Following the present roll out of ECO CABLE-labelled telecom products in Europe, other regions will follow later this year. The ECO CABLE products are aimed at proactively addressing the increasingly green expectations of the telecom market and of all stakeholders”, explains Philippe Vanhille, Executive Vice President Telecom Division at Prysmian Group. “We are now ready to present our range of telecom products where the measurable and recognized sustainable criteria can be applied, to support operators and broadband infrastructure providers strengthen their green supply chain and value proposition.“

Philippe Vanhille

Executive Vice President Telecom Division at Prysmian Group

“Fibre optics is already the greenest network technology there is, and the idea behind ECO CABLE is to pick out and promote best in class solutions,” explains Ian Griffiths, Global R&D VP - Telecom at Prysmian Group. “We’ve basically taken all of our telecom cables and applied a six-point matrix-based scoring system, similar to what we’ve done previousky with our energy cables. The criteria are derived from standards, including EC classifications, that are used in the market to determine how sustainable a product is. We feed all kinds of data into the matrix, such as already available CO2 calculations from manufacturing and design processes. We also look at the density of the cable and the use of hazardous materials – something we avoid completely.”

Ian Griffiths

Global R&D VP - Telecom at Prysmian Group

“We had to carefully define ‘cable transmission efficiency’ for telecom products,” adds Alessandro Pirri, Global Telecom Cost Roadmap Program Manager at Prysmian Group. “For energy cabling this is straightforward – you can look at heat generation and dispersal and translate that to energy waste. For optical technology, we needed to define ‘efficiency’ differently, and we found that ‘density’ was a good parameter: the more fibres you can get into the same space, the better the transmission characteristics are in relation to materials used. We can calculate bits per mm2 and look at the cable cross-section and arrive at a useful metric. This not only impacts material usage, but also civil works – lower space requirements mean less digging and better reuse of existing duct capacity, for example through overblowing. As rollout cost is around half to two-thirds of the overall project cost, we have a vast CAPEX benefit on top of the sustainability benefit.”

Alessandro Pirri

Global Telecom Cost Roadmap Program Manager at Prysmian Group

“To get a truly accurate overview of a product’s sustainability performance, we rely on harmonised and correct input and take a very wide range of factors into account. When it comes to determining environmental impact of materials, for example, standardised average tables are generally used. However: two cables made with polyethylene at two different locations might have the same ecological footprint when it comes to materials, but if one is used locally and the other travels around the world before being used, their actual impact on the environment is vastly different. That needs to be considered. The length of time during which a cable can be effectively used is another important factor that is often overlooked.”

The required calculations are fairly complex, partly due to the large number of factors that need to be taken into account. Not everything is intuitive: for example, a cable’s CPR rating might need to be considered, even though that isn’t relevant to how it will actually be used. “When we compare the outcome with telecom cables to the outcome on energy cables, we see more similarity in results,” says Ian. “One great benefit of the scoring system is that it helps us understand exactly how we can make improvements to products that didn’t pass the threshold. For example, we might be able to use different raw materials, or recycled materials, or we could increase cable density in some projects, which in some cases might need customer interaction. We can go to a customer and say: "Your cable could be more sustainable if we change this specification slightly. That’s important because more and more customers are asking about sustainability, and developments such as EPD and LCA are driving this. Our aim is to make it easier for them to choose certain products. For our EcosSlim cable for example, we’ll be able to issue official EPD documentation, and we’re upgrading all data sheets and labelling ECO CABLE products.”

Alessandro adds: “Being able to advise customers can also help them pass audits and obtain permissions. Sometimes, they aren’t aware of ‘quick wins’. For example, using dummy fillers to fill out a cable wouldn’t pass our ECO CABLE rating, as the density becomes extremely low. We’d advise a smaller cable, maybe a miniaturised solution, or a higher fibre count. Furthermore, if new standards are introduced or existing standards change, we can easily adapt our matrix to reflect that, and requalify products. If you have a clear reference to start with, you can adapt to new references at any time.”

Ian concludes: “At the end of the day, technical characteristics such as tensile strength and crush performance are key if we want to place a cable in the ground for 25 years. If we can guarantee that performance using recycled materials, it should be the ‘go-to’ choice!”

Prysmian Group’s ECO CABLE label criteria include:

  • Carbon Footprint This is calculated according to “cradle-to-gate” approach and combined with other parameters to achieve full “cradle-to-grave” carbon footprint
  • Absence of Substances of Very High Concern Products must be free of substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic for reproduction, or hazardous for the environment
  • Recyclability/Circularity Materials used in cables should be potentially recyclable or the products themselves should be potentially fully recyclable
  • Recycling input rate This represents recycled material in a cable, purchased from external suppliers as well as reused by Prysmian Group itself
  • Environmental benefits This applies to low-carbon enabling products, CPR compliant cables, and cables used for green energy sources.
  • Cable transmission efficiency (for optical cables this implies an increase in fibre density) The more efficient the cable, the more sustainable its performance.

Prysmian Group has embraced the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and uses these as a guide for its sustainability strategy. Our sustainability strategy is based on three priorities: developing sustainable and innovative solutions for the deployment of accessible energy and innovation in telecommunications and infrastructure; responsible use of energy and water resources; and development of people and local communities. The strength of this approach lies with the constant monitoring of the Group's sustainability performance along the entire value chain. Prysmian therefore sets concrete, measurable targets for increasing its revenue from low-polluting products, increasing its waste recycling, cutting down on its own emissions, and gender equality.