The innovation cycles in mobile technology are growing steadily shorter. More and more raw materials are needed to manufacture new products, some of which are extremely rare and are extracted and processed under critical conditions in newly industrialized and developing countries. At the same time, devices are used for ever shorter periods and many disposed of without considering the value of the materials they contain. We can only indirectly impact suppliers and subcontractors at the start of the complex value chain for ICT products, for example by refusing to buy products from dubious sources. We are aware of our responsibility and are convinced that we can make a real difference by taking comprehensive solution approaches. That is why we participate in industry-wide collaborations like the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI).
In February 2013, the Switch Asia project sponsored by the EU came to an end. The purpose of the project was to improve the sustainability efforts of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) in China's ICT industry. The project was initiated because SMEs are responsible for a large amount of air and water pollution in Asia. European companies can help them develop environmentally-friendly processes. Deutsche Telekom sponsored the project as a strategic partner. Various measures were conducted from 2009 until 2013 within the scope of Switch Asia, including 23 workshops for SMEs as well as development programs for twelve pilot companies and two network events. More than 1,600 companies participated in one or several of the events.
Telekom presented its sustainability strategy and its contributions to the project at the final event of the Switch Asia project in January 2013. Telekom's contributions included preparing and conducting workshops, receiving a high-ranking Chinese delegation in Germany and passing on its knowledge of environmentally relevant characteristics of products and possible sustainability standards.
In cooperation with the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, we helped expand the Conflict-Free Smelter Program in 2012. The point of the program is to make it possible for companies to procure conflict-free raw materials. Another goal is to establish industry standards that cover the extraction and processing of raw materials, with the objective of preserving peaceful co-existence and human rights.
The program focuses its controls on metal processing and smelting companies, which make up the "bottleneck" of the entire supply chain for mineral resources (from the mines to the final product). Independent auditors control companies to make sure that sourced raw materials are not related to armed conflicts.
We made progress in the following areas during the reporting period:
- Introduction of an independent audit of the Conflict-Free Smelter Program
- Definition of new audit indicators
- Development of an audit protocol that can be viewed by the public for each metal worked by smelting companies
- Installation of a whistleblower process for people to anonymously report shortcomings of smelting companies
- Expansion of the program to include the automotive industry as a result of the US-based Industry Action Group becoming a member
- Inclusion of jewelry makers
In order to increase its influence, the initiative is planning to expand its efforts to include other stakeholders and to consider collaboration with initiatives engaged in areas such as sustainable forestry, diamond mining and fair trade.Find out more
Numerous metals are used in wireless and landline phones as well as other ICT products. Most of these metals come from newly industrialized and developing countries, where they are often mined or extracted under problematic conditions. That's why we actively support the efforts of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) industry association to increase the transparency of the raw materials extraction process and minimize the negative social and environmental impacts of raw materials extraction.