Our approach to sustainable products and services

Our contribution to the SDGs

Our core business consists of operating and expanding our networks. Our networks provide the foundation for digital participation. Since 2021, 100 percent of the electricity for our networks has been obtained from renewable resources. Also, by providing innovative, network-based, and digital solutions, we support our customers in reducing their own carbon emissions and in contributing to climate protection.

We want to make our entire product range more and more sustainable. Furthermore, we take a holistic perspective on this issue, a perspective that extends to the rates and devices we offer, and that includes a comprehensive approach to achieving a circular economy  – a product-life-cycle approach that extends to production, sustainable packaging, product use, product refurbishing and product recycling. This requires thoroughgoing measures along all stages of the value chain. Consequently, we begin with procurement, and we strive to ensure that our suppliers comply with our ecological, social, and ethical sustainability requirements.

Our labels
We have developed our #GreenMagenta and #GoodMagenta labels as tools for informing our customers about sustainability benefits. Deutsche Telekom products, services and initiatives that carry these labels have been reviewed in keeping with clearly defined requirements. In addition, we permit products to carry recognized third-party environmental labels when this is appropriate. For example, several of our router and mesh devices have been certified with the TÜV Rheinland “Green Product” label (TÜV Rheinland is a leading international provider of technical services, including certification). Furthermore, a significant share of the fixed-network telephones offered by Telekom Deutschland are certified with the “Blue Angel” label. The strict requirements of these labels help us see how we can further improve our products. 

In 2021, working in cooperation with other mobile network operators, we developed a sustainability ranking system for mobile phones – the Eco Rating. It enables customers to see at a glance which phones score well with regard to durability, reparability and recyclability, climate compatibility, and resources conservation.

We have also been making our product packaging more and more sustainable. Since mid-2022, and on a European-wide basis, all of our own new products are being sold in sustainable packaging for which we have developed suitable sustainability criteria. Nearly 90 percent of the new packaging for our suppliers’ smartphones conforms to these criteria as well. Wherever possible, we reduce package sizes with the help of special packaging machines. Increasingly, we are relying, e.g., on PaperFoam, a bio-based and biodegradable alternative to conventional packaging materials, as a means of protecting our products within the packaging.

For example, our Speedport Smart 4 router is sold in a plastic-free package. Most of the paper used is already recycled, or comes from sustainable forestry (FSC®-certified).

Responsible use of resources
Our efforts to use resources responsibly begin right with the earliest stages of production. In our Speedport Smart 4 router, for example, we limit the use of harmful substances (such as in electronic components) beyond the degree required by law. Furthermore, a total of 90% of the housing of the Speedport Smart 4 consists of recycled plastic.

Another example: In October 2022, in North Macedonia and Hungary, we introduced a Magenta TV Box (set top box) with a housing made of bio-based polycarbonate. Bio-based polycarbonate is an environmentally friendly plastic that is manufactured solely from renewable raw materials. In the same year, we began making our SIM cards out of recycled plastic. That change alone is saving some 63 metric tons of CO2 per year. The SIM cards carry the #GreenMagenta label. At the same time, we are aiming to do away entirely with plastic SIM cards and use only eSIMs. Via various measures, including customer advising, we are gradually increasing use of eSIMs. This is saving additional resources.

At the end of products life cycles, we help to ensure that they are reused or properly recycled. In fact, we have been collecting and buying back used mobile devices for this purpose since 2003. Since then, in Germany, we have helped to conserve resources by recycling, or providing for reuse, more than 3.4 million used devices. In November 2022, we reorganized our smartphone-collection system in our shops. Now, when customers return an old smartphone that has little residual value, and we can’t make them a purchase offer, they still receive a small consideration for their trouble. This provides an incentive for phone returns. Our national companies also accept used devices. This is the case in North Macedonia, for example, where our national company has earned the #GreenMagenta label for its collection process for used phones.

In Germany, persons interested in giving used smartphones a second life can sell them to us, via our “Handyankauf”  (phone buybacks) portal, for refurbishment. We also buy back smartphones from the German B2B segment. Also, Deutsche Telekom returns its used smartphones (i.e., used for business purposes) for refurbishment/recycling. Via the “ReUse MyMobile” portal, we sell products that are fully refurbished and completely free of any technical defects. Each such product comes with a fresh 24-month warranty. Our “Handyankauf” and “ReUse MyMobile” programs have both been awarded the #GreenMagenta label. Other national companies also sell refurbished smartphones. This is the case in Austria, for example. Our phone-resale program there has also earned the #GreenMagenta label.

To promote sustainability, we are also committed to ensuring that routers and media receivers are not simply disposed of after being replaced. With our “Rent instead of Buying” rental service, we conserve resources, reduce electronic waste, and thus avoid carbon emissions. Last year, we provided around one million refurbished devices to our customers in Germany.

An affordable 5G smartphone: the T Phone
As of the year under review, we are offering our new T Phone and T Phone Pro 5G smartphones in a total of nine European countries, with a view to enabling the largest possible numbers of people to profit from our 5G-network expansion. Since the end of January 2023, the phones have also been available in Germany. These phones are designed to be more affordable, so that more people can participate in the digital world. As an added benefit, the T Phone comes in sustainable packaging.

Subsidized rates
In Germany and at several national companies, we offer various subsidized rates, to enable customers on low incomes and people with disabilities to make calls at reasonable prices.

Subsidized rate plans
Telekom Deutschland offers special rate plans to promote digital participation among different groups in society. Since 2000, our “Telekom@School” project has been providing general and vocational schools nationwide with internet accesses for teaching purposes. Participating schools receive the accesses either free of charge or at a considerably reduced price, depending on the access bandwidth img. What’s more, German Red Cross employees and firefighters can get special rates for Telekom rate plans thanks to corresponding framework agreements.

Helping people work from home
We offer our business customers secure solutions that enable their employees to work from home efficiently. Our home office configurator helps small and medium-sized businesses, for example, to develop customized solutions for staff working from home. Likewise, our Digital Schutzpaket Business (digital business protection package) keeps sensitive customer data safe.

In addition, we offer videoconferencing solutions of various established providers, including some solutions with added, proprietary functions of our own that support energy-efficient work from home offices.

Measuring progress
We measure our progress by means of various KPIs:

  • We use the “Sustainable Revenue Share” ESG KPI img to determine the proportion of sales generated with products and services that are classified as more sustainable, based on a risk-benefit analysis. 
  • With our “Ecologically sustainable products” KPI, we show what share of our entire product range consists of sustainable products. 
  • With our “Take Back Mobile Devices” and "Take Back CPE" ESG KPIs, we measure the impacts of our circular economy concepts.
  • We use the “Enablement Factor” ESG KPI to calculate the positive carbon effects generated as our products are used by customers.
  • With the “Sustainable Packaging” KPI, we show what share of Deutsche Telekom-branded products consists of products with sustainable packaging. 

Michael Werner

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Reporting against standards

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

  • GRI 301 3-3 (Management of material topic)

Analysis of our products’ sustainability benefits KPI

To date, there is no industry-wide established system that provides sustainability information about ICT img products and services. Since 2014 at Deutsche Telekom, we have been using an in-house analysis method to assess the sustainability of our products. This includes, for example, examining the safety of the products, or how well they can be recycled.

We inform our customers about how our products are contributing to sustainability. The results of our analyses also allow us to position ourselves as a responsible company with respect to the competition. In the year under review, our analysis included a review of selected products in light of EU Taxonomy img criteria.

Correlation with SDGs
In the year under review, we reviewed – with support from internal experts – the sustainability benefits of a number of our products in light of the Sustainable Development Goals img (SDGs). The degree of detail depended on the revenue generated with the product under review. If revenues were high, we considered the impact on all SDGs. Where revenues were limited, we only took the impact on the most relevant SDG into account.

Results of the analysis
In the year under review (2022), we studied 35 product groups in detail, analyzing both their contribution to sustainability and their business potential (as of the end of 2022).

We measure the result of this analysis with the Sustainable Revenue Share ESG img KPI. The share of revenue from more-sustainable products was around 42 percent in 2022 (excluding T-Mobile US). The share thus remained constant compared to the prior year (42 percent in 2021). A key reason for the slight percentage decrease seen in this area is that total revenue (not including revenue in the United States) grew more strongly than did sustainability-related revenue. In addition, we have made our assessment methods more stringent. Now, intensified use of renewable energies no longer counts as a positive aspect that makes a portfolio element, as assessed, “more-sustainable.” This change reflects the fact that the entire Group is now using renewable energies. Also, and as in previous years, potential cost savings are simply seen as additional information, and not as significant criteria for a sustainability assessment.

The #GoodMagenta and #GreenMagenta labels
We use our #GreenMagenta and #GoodMagenta labels as a way of highlighting our products and initiatives that offer sustainability benefits. The #GreenMagenta label highlights products, services, projects, measures, and initiatives that are especially noteworthy in the areas of climate action and responsible use of resources. #GoodMagenta is applied to projects, actions, and initiatives that make a positive contribution to overcoming social and societal challenges in the digital world. Awarding of the two labels is subject to strict rules of our own definition. In each case, the product or effort, etc., has to show proven sustainability benefits. For awards of the #GreenMagenta label, for example, we carry out extensive impact assessments. In cases in which societal or ecological impacts emerge that are clearly adverse, the #GreenMagenta and #GoodMagenta labels may not be awarded, regardless of whatever benefits the product or effort provides. To date, over 35 products from Germany, and from several European national companies, such as Magenta Telekom in Austria and Makedonski Telekom in North Macedonia, have been awarded one of the two labels. For example, our green network – which since 2021 is being operated worldwide with 100 percent renewable energy – and our Speedport Smart 4 router carry the #GreenMagenta label.

Jonas Kowalski

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Smart Innovation

In this section, we will introduce some “Smart Innovation” solutions. The associated business models are based on the most advanced technology and provide an immediate value-add for our customers. At the same time, these solutions are also making an ecological and/or social contribution to society.

We are, for example, utilizing future-oriented and widely available technologies to make cities viable for the future and to develop solutions for social challenges. For this, we are relying on innovative NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT img) technology, with which we are paving the way for the Internet of Things img. NB-IoT devices have a large operating range and long battery service lives. Consequently, this technology provides the basis for many innovative uses that are both cost- and energy efficient. Particularly useful areas of application for NB-IoT are, for instance, smart parking, smart cities, smart meters, as well as transport and logistics solutions. One example is the networking of irrigation systems.

For example, we have entered into close cooperation with the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg in the area of urban mobility. At the ITS 2021 transportation and logistics congress, we jointly presented solutions for improved mobility in road traffic - for example, to measure and display available parking spaces using sensors and intelligent dashboards. Another technology enables mobility stations and trucks in the Port of Hamburg to be networked and smartly controlled. These innovations go a long way toward optimizing traffic. Similar projects are also being developed in other cities, for example in Pforzheim.

NB-IoT and LTE-M are available in all cities and towns in Germany. Deutsche Telekom currently offers NB-IoT in 28 countries and LTE-M, which was only launched in Germany in 2020, is now available in 23 countries. NB-IoT and LTE-M roaming is available to our customers across the entire footprint.

Smart Innovation NB-IoT

Accessible products and services

Our contribution to the SDGs

We want to make it easier for people with disabilities to have access to the knowledge and information society. To that end, we offer them specially tailored services. Our national companies also strive to provide barrier-free access to their services. Further information is available in the respective country profiles.

Digital assistant for accessibility
The nora Notruf App img (nora emergency-call app), available in Germany since 2021, is a digital assistant which can determine the user’s precise location and trigger emergency calls at a tap. It is a boon for people who have speech or hearing impediments that make it difficult or impossible to make phone calls the usual way. The app, which Deutsche Telekom holds the patent for, is especially attractive by virtue of its versatility. In addition to simply alerting first responders (police, fire department, or paramedics), the user can also tap to identify the type of emergency involved, such as a crime in progress, accident, fire, severe illness, flooding, person in distress, or animal in distress. While people with speech or hearing impediments can report emergencies by using the Tess Relay services img or sending an emergency fax, those options can wind up wasting valuable time.

Services for the hearing impaired
In 2003, we set up a hotline (“Deaf Hotline”) for deaf and hearing-impaired customers. Every day, up to 50 people contact the hotline. Customers and consultants can see each other using a video-based live chat application and can communicate with each other in sign language. Also, we offer a chat service in which specially trained staff advise deaf and hearing-impaired persons in simplified language.

In addition, for hearing-impaired customers and members of the German association for hearing-impaired persons, Deutscher Gehörlosen-Bund e. V., we operate a special online sales site. There, we offer a discounted mobile-communications and fixed-line portfolio that is tailored to the exact needs of hearing-impaired persons. Via the website, customers can either book desired rates directly or contact our Deaf Hotline.

Since 2018, hearing-impaired people in Germany have had access to a 24-hour emergency call service with sign language interpreters for emergency situations. The service is jointly financed by the mandatory social security contribution paid by Deutsche Telekom to Germany’s Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency).

Our various national companies also offer services for hearing-impaired persons. T-Mobile Czech Republic, for example, working in cooperation with the social enterprise Transkript Online, offers in its shops both a deaf hotline and an online-transcription service (a speech-to-text service for interactions either in person or over the phone). T-Mobile Polska offers its customers a sign-language-interpreting service via its shops and customer-service operations.

Supporting users with simplified language
According to studies, 12 percent of people in Germany are not able to grasp complicated texts. In our endeavor to make it easier for them to access our products, we also offer some of our product information in simpler language. Also, our #TAKEPART stories, and a number of topic pages within this CR Report (under “experiencing sustainability” – “Nachhaltigkeit erleben”) are made available in simplified language.

For companies and municipalities: Finding support programs for digital investments

Supply shortages, rising prices, and overall inflation present major challenges for companies and municipalities alike. Digital solutions, which make processes more efficient, facilitate the development of new business models and help organizations become more innovative and sustainable, can play especially useful roles in difficult times.  In Germany, numerous types of state subsidies are available for digital business solutions, digital technologies, and IT systems. In such assistance, the federal and Länder governments assume up to 70 percent of incurred costs, and municipal governments sometimes even assume all of the costs involved. Also, many funding programs focus especially on sustainability-oriented digitalization projects and initiatives that are good for the environment and support efforts toward Germany's climate targets.

In our “Schubkraft” (“Thrust”) initiative, we help customers gain a clear understanding of available funding options, and we work with them in reviewing ways of applying investments and obtaining federal and Länder subsidies for them. Our relevant website offers valuable tips on how to apply, on the numerous funding programs available, and on available free consultations of relevance to customers’ individual situations. Also, “Meine Förderung”  (“My Funding”), a free Deutsche Telekom app img, provides a good overview of the some000 funding programs currently in place, along with a “funding-check” eligibility-checking function. Finally, we offer a toll-free hotline, at 0800 330 6001, via which experts provide overview information about Germany’s funding sector and about applicable terms and conditions.

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