Circular economy

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Our approach to circular economy

Consumption of natural resources continues to increase globally. According to the German Environment Agency (UBA), the use of non-renewable raw materials in particular is associated with significant intervention in ecosystems and the water balance, and gives rise to waste and pollution.

Our goal is to make our product portfolio increasingly sustainable. In this connection, we are taking a holistic approach to conserving resources and are working to ensure that resources are used responsibly throughout our entire value chain. We aim to make products and materials as durable as possible and to ensure they are always recycled at the end of their lifetimes. Recycling products and materials and using them for longer not only saves on resources, but also reduces energy use and emissions, thus contributing to climate change mitigation. By 2030, we intend to ensure that almost all of the products we bring into circulation can be returned to the circular ecosystem. This also applies to the network technology we use. Additionally, we work to ensure that the products and services we use at the workstations in our office facilities, in our Telekom Shops and in our data centers are compatible with the circular economy. Office supplies and materials for marketing are one example of such products.

Our approach in this area is holistic, covering the areas “Resource efficiency in operations,” “Green products and services” and “Waste prevention and recycling” (see graphic).


Resource efficiency in operations
Our efforts to enhance resource efficiency in operations focus on our IT infrastructure, our sustainable buildings, and our workplaces. They also include the switch to fully electric company cars and service vehicles, along with additional measures for promoting sustainable mobility.

Waste prevention and recycling
We are committed to the reuse and proper recycling of electronic devices. The zero waste approach and the associated ‘waste pyramid’ concept provide the key frame of reference for us in this regard. This is why, for example, we offer products (our routers, for instance) for rental and accept returned used devices (such as cell phones). Wherever possible, we refurbish returned devices for resale and reuse, i.e., put them back into circulation. In some of our flagship stores in Europe, we offer what we call repair bars, where we repair or replace displays, rechargeable batteries, and back covers of devices from several manufacturers. Products that cannot be reused are properly recycled as part of our waste management process. For recycling of copper cables, we have adopted a special guideline that is binding throughout the Group. Such cables are being partially replaced over the course of our fiber-optic img rollout.

Green products & services
We are constantly enhancing our range of sustainable offerings – throughout a spectrum from environmentally friendly products and services to our green shops. In addition, we strongly encourage our suppliers to use resources responsibly and to reuse materials wherever possible. This includes reducing the amount of plastic, paper and packaging they utilize, and using recycled materials.

The basis: a certified management system
With our health, safety, and environmental management system (HSE img), we have made a commitment to continually improving our performance in these areas. In 2021, it was successfully recertified, until the end of 2024, in accordance with the international standards ISO 45001 on occupational health and safety, ISO 14001 img on environmental management, and ISO 9001 img on quality management. Surveillance audits img were carried out in 2022 and 2023 for this purpose. Our Group environmental policy, which was amended and adopted by the CR Board during the year under review, summarizes all of the current voluntary ecological commitments in effect throughout the Group. The amendments were made in response to the growing relevance of topics such as the circular economy, biodiversity, and water scarcity, and include updates to the EMF img Policy.

European targets
Our European national companies have set themselves the target of being fully circular around devices by 2030 within the framework of our EU strategy for resource efficiency. This means introducing appropriate measures to ensure that their device portfolio is fully circular by the end of the decade. This also includes striving to ensure throughout Europe that no electronic waste produced by Deutsche Telekom’s national companies, and no returned devices, such as smartphones, routers, or laptops, wind up in landfills – and that such waste and devices (where not refurbishable) are properly disposed of or recycled as they would be in Germany (target: “Zero Waste for ICT img to Landfill”). This target was achieved by the end of 2022.

Sustainable packaging
As of mid-2022, all Deutsche-Telekom-branded products launched on the market have been packaged sustainably throughout Europe, in keeping with our Sustainability Packaging Guideline. Packaging for smartphones that we purchase from our suppliers must also meet these criteria. In the 2023 reporting year, we were not aware of any violations of the packaging guidelines by suppliers in this context. We monitor compliance with the criteria by means of regular factory audits.

Measurement of progress
We are continually working to improve our performance indicators to be able to review our Group-wide progress. In 2021, we developed a comprehensive new set of performance indicators. This has enabled us to set clear-cut goals and to report transparently on progress. The ESG KPI imgMobile Device Take-Back” existed prior to the overhaul of our set of performance indicators, and we have also been keeping records since 2021 of the numbers of items of Customer Premises Equipment (CPE img) we have collected, for instance. We measure progress toward copper cable recycling with the KPI “Copper Cable Recycling.”

Impact assessment for our materiality analysis
Most resources for the manufacturing and use of our products and network infrastructure are consumed in both upstream and downstream stages of the value chain – with our suppliers and customers. It was here that a negative impact risk was identified as part of the impact assessment for our materiality analysis. Consumption of natural resources continues to increase globally, negatively affecting biodiversity and climate change, and giving rise to waste and pollution. We intend to counteract this with our ambitious circularity target and resulting initiatives.



Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

  • GRI 301 3-3 (Management of material topics)
  • GRI 306 3-3 (Management of material topics)
  • GRI 306-2 (Waste)

Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)

  • Code TC-TL-440a.1 (Product End-of-life Management)
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Resource efficiency at the workplace

We also contribute to resource efficiency at the workplace by endeavoring to use as many green office supplies as possible. In 2023, over 80 percent of all of our catalog-based office supplies in Germany were sustainable. We also took the following measures in Germany:

  • Our “IT Remarketing” project: Used IT hardware is refurbished so that it can be reused.
  • Our partner, the charitable organization “AfB gemeinnützige GmbH”, which offers jobs for people with disabilities, receives some of our used IT hardware (e.g., laptops) for reconditioning and reselling.
  • In our catalog of office supplies, over 80 percent of products are classified as sustainable, meaning they have been awarded a label recommended by the German Environment Agency (UBA). This is an increase of 15 percent from the previous year. The labels in question include the EU Ecolabel, the Fairtrade seal, the Organic Farming seal, the Blue Angel eco-label, and the FSC® and PEFC environmental labels. Office supplies are delivered largely in accordance with the carbon neutrality certificate. On our “You and Me UNITED” social network, we also offer our employees a platform where they can exchange used office supplies instead of ordering new supplies.
  • Since 2018, we have worked with a paper wholesaler to purchase only environmentally certified paper that has been awarded the Blue Angel certificate. Additionally, we are looking to work with a range of projects and initiatives to further reduce our paper consumption.
  • To meet the requirements of the Minamata Convention img and curb mercury emissions, we are working to modernize the media technology used in our company.

Less food waste in cafeterias
Since 2020, we have been offering our employees discounted items in the cafeterias after 4 p.m. at two locations in Germany. Employees can purchase food that would otherwise have to be thrown away, such as baked goods, salads, and muesli, at half price.

In addition, our staff have had the option, since 2021, of getting their midday meal as a takeaway lunch in reusable containers (“REBOWL”). We also joined forces with Sodexo, the company running our cafeterias in Germany, to introduce the RECUP returnable cup at many Deutsche Telekom sites in Germany in 2018.


Resource efficiency in the network and IT infrastructure

We are currently carrying out projects in this area in various segments. The common goal: we want to achieve our climate change mitigation targets, meet circularity requirements, and introduce a holistic total cost of ownership (TCO img) approach for our network and IT infrastructure.

Our measures for copper cable recycling are a practical example of such a project that we are currently implementing.


Germany segment: contribution to achieving a circular economy

The Germany segment img uses resources prudently, the goal being to avoid creating waste wherever possible, extend the usage lifetime of products, and recycle valuable materials as fully as possible. The segment is pursuing a range of approaches in this context to motivate customers to use their devices for longer. We also take care to handle electronic waste properly and avoid producing waste that would need to be disposed of in landfill.

Reuse and recycling of electronic products
The Germany segment is committed to the reuse and proper recycling of the electronic products used by our customers.

It refurbished almost one million customer devices (such as routers and TV set-top boxes) for reuse in 2023.

Of these refurbished items, the segment sold or rented out around 460 000 fixed-network devices, and offered its customers some 450 000 devices as a replacement.

We only recycle products that we are unable to reuse, ensuring that they are processed properly. This amounted to approximately 600 000 devices in 2023.

Second life for used smartphones
Our “Handyankauf” (phone buybacks) scheme in Germany allows customers to give their smartphones a second lease of life by selling them to our partner Assurant for refurbishment. There are currently over 1 700 models in our buy-back portfolio. We also offer refurbished smartphones in perfect working order with a 24-month warranty via our “ReUse MyMobile” service. Refurbishing smartphones in this way allows us to increase their usage lifetime and reduce the annual carbon footprint of the Germany segment and its customers. Our “Handyankauf” and “ReUse MyMobile” programs have both been awarded the #GreenMagenta label.

The Germany segment is working with circular-tech specialist Foxway to collect used cell phones and smartphones via the cell-phone collection center. Each device is examined to check whether it can still be refurbished, with the reuse rate standing at between 10 and 15 percent. Only devices that no longer have any market value are harvested for raw materials and upcycled in Germany, with gold, silver, platinum, and palladium being recovered from them. The shared take-back system uses secure, state-of-the-art solutions for the collection and transport of used devices as well as data deletion. The system has been certified by the German eco-label Blue Angel. The proceeds from marketing and recycling are used to support projects in nature conservation and environmental protection, as well as social projects organized by the partners of the cell-phone collection center.


Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

  • GRI 301-3 (Materials)
  • GRI 306-2 (Waste)

United States segment: minimizing waste

T-Mobile US is committed to diverting as much waste from landfills as possible through recycling, composting, avoidance, and digitization across the business. An important part of these efforts is educating employees on what recycling and disposal options are available to them across facilities.

As a telecommunications company, managing electronic waste – or e-waste – responsibly across our network is a priority. Every piece of network equipment that keeps us connected contains precious metals, glass, or other raw materials. This is why T-Mobile US aims to recover electronic equipment and products by repairing, reusing, recycling or reselling whenever possible.

T-Mobile US continues to assess its network equipment to see what can be repaired and reused elsewhere across the business to reduce costs and environmental impact.

Device Reuse and Recycling Program
For end-of-life treatment of consumer devices, T-Mobile US enables responsible device recycling for customers through its Device Reuse and Recycling Program. This program facilitates collection, upcycling and recycling of smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, hotspots, or IoT items at T-Mobile US stores for free.

For device trade-ins, T-Mobile US provides a trade-in estimator tool that gives customers an immediate offer on eligible devices. Any device that cannot be repaired for reuse is recycled with partners that are certified to the R2 standard which provides a common set of processes, safety measures and documentation requirements. R2 is rigorously and independently audited img, emphasizing quality, safety and transparency, including any devices exported for refurbishment and recycling.

T-Mobile US continues to responsibly manage its e-waste through its repair, reuse, and recycling programs.


Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

  • GRI 301-3 (Materials)
  • GRI 306-2 (Waste)

Europe segment: resource efficiency for mobile and fixed-network devices

The Europe segment set specific targets in 2021 within the framework of our EU strategy for resource efficiency. The countries concerned committed to ensuring that no returned devices, whether mobile or fixed-network, wind up in landfills as electronic waste, and that such waste and devices are properly recycled as they would be in Germany (target: “Zero Waste for ICT img to Landfill”). This target was achieved by the end of 2022.

Rental models are the main option offered by all European national companies when it comes to fixed-network devices. These models allow devices to be reused when they are replaced or to be properly recycled. Our formerly mobile-only companies in Poland have been offering a rental model for fixed-network devices since the third quarter of 2023.

Many of us have discarded or defective cell phones gathering dust in a drawer somewhere. We intend to contribute to saving resources and preventing waste by allowing our customers to return these devices. Obsolete or defective phones will be properly recycled, with valuable resources being extracted in the process. We launched the Good Cause initiative in 2022 to underscore to our customers the importance and necessity of saving resources. All of our national companies from the segment were involved in the initiative. We intend to collect one million discarded devices by the end of 2024 to refurbish them for reuse or to put the valuable resources they contain back into circulation.

All national companies take back used cell phones, primarily at their stores, but also via other channels, such as the targeted take-back campaigns that ran in Poland and Croatia in summer 2023. The ongoing take-back process in Croatia and North Macedonia even carries the #GreenMagenta label. Up until now, most of the national companies have only offered a limited number of refurbished smartphones. Before putting these devices back into circulation, we check whether they are suitable for refurbishment and refurbish those that are. Since the fourth quarter of 2023, our customers, initially in Croatia and Poland, have been able to purchase used smartphones that are in good condition as part of a trade-in scheme. The Hungarian national company has been working with the firm Recommerce since 2023 to offer a large number of refurbished mobile devices. Refurbished cell phones in Austria have been awarded the #GreenMagenta label. Other countries in the Europe segment are planning to launch a similar program in 2024.

For every phone collected, the national companies make a donation to local projects as part of the Good Cause initiative. These projects work in areas such as marine conservation, forest conservation, or ICT solutions to tackle climate change. Alternatively, national companies may support NGOs operating locally with their projects or initiate projects of their own.

We outline selected projects of the European national companies below.

Many of our national companies conducted clean-up campaigns during the year under review with the aim of raising public awareness of the problem of marine pollution and at the same time encouraging people to collect electronic waste themselves. For instance, the OTE Group in Greece worked with NGO Enaleia to support the “COSMOTE BLUE” project in summer 2023. The goal was to clear the beaches and seas of plastic waste in the Thermaic Gulf, Halkidiki, the Argo-Saronic Gulf, and Crete, involving local fishing communities in the endeavor. Our national company in Montenegro organized a similar event for International Coastal Cleanup Day. Held in mid-September each year, it is the country’s largest voluntary initiative, bringing participants together to clean up coasts and riverbanks. Slovak Telekom worked with NGO BROZ in Slovakia to restore and protect wetlands in the Donau-Auen National Park that had been damaged by human activity.

There were also a number of forest conservation and reforestation initiatives for promoting sustainable agriculture, pond cultures, and forestry, along with the production of regional produce. Magenta Telekom in Austria, for example, has been working with NGO Gut Ottenstein since 2022 to support a project around the Ottenstein Reservoir, where extensive damage from storms, bark beetle infestations and the like necessitates the planting of new trees.

The national company in North Macedonia joined forces with the Scout Association of Macedonia to run a reforestation program in regions of forest that had suffered severe fire damage.

In Hungary, our national company is assisting the WWF with using an environmentally friendly, low-cost monitoring system to maintain five newly created wetland areas. The system aids the supply water to these areas, which will most likely be at risk in future from rising mean temperatures and more irregular rainfall patterns resulting from climate change.

T-Mobile Czech Republic is supporting the “Clever Landscape” project, a long-term endeavor of the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague. The project is being conducted in an area measuring over 1 700 hectares as part of the “Smart Forest Landscape Jevany” initiative. The goal is to identify and introduce the most effective measures for mitigating the impact of water scarcity and changes in precipitation patterns resulting from climate change. We are leveraging our IoT technologies and data transmission capabilities on the 5G network to help develop an adapted landscape that should withstand the effects of climate change for years to come.


Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

  • GRI 301-3 (Materials)
  • GRI 306-2 (Waste)

Take Back Mobile Devices ESG KPI (including cell phones) KPI

We report the ESG KPI img “Mobile Device Take-Back” based on the reference value “number of mobile devices in circulation.” This makes it possible to show the ratio of collected devices to the number of devices sold. When the devices are used for longer periods of time, the environment benefits and, as a result, this has a positive impact on the KPI.

Our ambition in this connection: increase the KPI

In 2023, over 8 million cell phones were collected throughout the Group. The corresponding KPI for the Group-wide value is thus 25.5 percent. The aim of the scheme for collection of used mobile devices is to give the devices a second life and, where that is not feasible, to properly recycle them, in order to recover the valuable raw materials they contain. This has conserved resources, and it has helped to improve the life cycle assessments for mobile devices overall.

The quantities of collected devices are reported in kilograms or in numbers of items. When using kilograms, we apply a Group-wide conversion factor of 7.25 items per kilogram, except where a different conversion factor is typically used in the country concerned. The mobile devices in circulation include smartphones, simple phones, tablets, and cordless phones. In the interest of data quality, numbers of items are reported by Procurement.


Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

  • GRI 301-3 (Materials)
  • GRI 306-1 (Waste)

Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)

  • Code TC-TL-440a.1 (Product End-of-life Management)

Indicators for telecommunications providers from the GSM Association (GSMA)

  • GSMA-ENV-04 (Materials Repaired or Reused)

Take Back CPEs ESG KPI (including fixed-line) KPI

In keeping with our circularity strategy, we also promote refurbishment and proper recycling of Customer Premises Equipment (CPE img). The CPE category includes modems, routers, repeaters, and TV receivers. The aim of the scheme for collection of such devices is to give the devices a second life and, where that is not feasible, to properly recycle them, in order to recover the valuable raw materials they contain.

We have recorded the ESG KPI img “CPE Take-Back” and the numbers of refurbished CPE items involved since 2021. In 2023, more than 4 million CPE items were collected across the Group, and 36 percent of that quantity were refurbished.

We are aiming to further improve the collection and refurbishment processes, and to achieve 100 percent sustainable management of collected CPE items. This would mean that all CPE items collected in Germany or by European national companies would either be refurbished, stored for future refurbishment, or recycled. Work on implementing relevant measures has already begun.


Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

  • GRI 301-3 (Materials)
  • GRI 306-1 (Waste)

Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)

  • Code TC-TL-440a.1 (Product End-of-life Management)

Indicators for telecommunications providers from the GSM Association (GSMA)

  • GSMA-ENV-04 (Materials Repaired or Reused)

benchmarking tool

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  • Highlights

    Day after day, we work to

    develop climate-neutral business

    practices and establish circularity

    Day after day, we work to develop climate-neutral business practices and establish circularity

    In ramping up our climate targets, we have fulfilled the stringent criteria of the Science Based Targets initiative and become the first DAX-40 company to have a recognized, science-based net-zero climate target.

    For the first time, we are outlining our route to net zero here in the form of a climate transition plan. We are already implementing the key measures set out in the plan. We achieved significant improvements in our KPI “Energy Intensity” by introducing efficiency measures in our networks and data centers.

    To reduce Scope 3 emissions, we set up a task force that works closely with suppliers to explore new approaches to recording CO₂ emissions. Other sustainability criteria are applied to procurement decisions to create an economic incentive. One of the main criteria is the requirement to observe the principle of circularity for network technology and devices from the design and procurement stage onwards. When it comes to devices in particular, circularity can only be achieved in cooperation with customers. We addressed these stakeholders directly in 2023 by means of programs to purchase used devices, special initiatives, and our infotainment magazine “Heute retten wir die Welt! Ein bisschen.” (English: “Today we save the world! A little bit.”) on MagentaTV.

    We support our customers in their efforts to adopt a more climate-friendly lifestyle. Our products and solutions generated positive CO₂ effects for our customers amounting to 16.9 million metric tons in Germany alone in 2023.

    Further examples of our progress in 2023, from the perspective of the Group and that of our segments, can be found in the subchapters.

    Highlight numbers

    Highlight numbers

    Progress of selected KPIs in  2023

    • 2022 2023 Progress

    • CO₂e emissions Scope 1&2 for the DT Group (in kt of CO₂e) 233 217 -7%

    • CO₂e emissions Scope 1–3 for the DT Group (in kt of CO₂e) 11 811 10 476 -11%

    • CPE Take-Back and Mobile Device Take Back for the DT Group (without TMUS) 4.5m. 4.8m. +7%

    • Enablement factor 3.76 4.78 +27%

    • Energy intensity 91 70 -23%

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