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  • 2017 Corporate Responsibility Report

Circular economy

Here is a selection of material topics from the 2017 CR-Report. More information can be found in the chapters Customers & productsSuppliers and Climate & environment.

Used cell-phone collection in Germany

Germany's recycling and reuse rate for small electronic appliances is too low. Too many used cell phones, smartphones and tablets are stuck in drawers or disposed of illegally with the household waste. But these devices should be refurbished and reused or properly recycled to help us conserve valuable resources. We have been offering different ways for people to hand in their devices since 2003. Customers have been able to return their used, high-end cell phones and smartphones to Telekom Shops under a buyback program since 2013. They receive store credit from the Telekom Shop reflecting their old device's current value, which they can use to purchase a new device, or they can choose to have the amount booked to their customer account. Business customers can send in their used cell phones and smartphones through a buyback portal ( for business customers, which we created in 2016. After the device's value has been determined, the amount can be paid out or donated to a charitable organization. Together with company Teqcycle Solutions we also operate the Cell Phone Collection Center online portal. Through this portal, authorities, associations and other organizations have the opportunity to start collection campaigns for donating used cell phones and smartphones. The website provides an overview of these partners and the collection campaigns they conduct. Such campaigns took place in Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia during the reporting period. We also welcomed two new cooperation partners in 2017: the Frankfurt Zoological Society and Pro Wildlife e.V. At the end of the year we donated the proceeds from the devices collected through recycling and reuse to environmental organization Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V.

Our contribution to the SDGs

In 2017 we joined together with radio station Antenne Unna to hold a cell phone collection competition between the communities of the region. The station followed the various collection campaigns and crowned one of the communities the victor. The objective of the competition was to increase listeners' awareness of environmentally friendly resource consumption. The proceeds from the sales and recycling activities were donated to the Lichtblicke e.V. charity.

In 2017 we collected exactly 148,888 used cell phones and smartphones throughout Germany and either reused them or had them properly recycled. During the cell phone collection campaign we use a data deletion process that is DEKRA certified and complies with strict data protection requirements. Defective cell phones or devices where certified data deletion would be too costly are properly recycled using state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly processes at the Telekom Recycling Center in Goslar. Up to 100 percent of the materials can then be reused – as recycled metals or for energy generation.

We depict the relationship between commercially sold and collected mobile phones with our Cell Phone Collection ESG KPI.

We map the relationship between mobile devices brought onto the market and taken back with our ESG KPI "Take-back mobile devices". In 2017, approximately 317,000 mobile devices (excluding T-Mobile US, AMC, Maktel, Crnogorski) were taken back throughout the Group.

Support of various collection campaigns As in previous years, we supported the Die Handyaktion campaign conducted by different church-affiliated groups in the state of Baden-Württemberg in 2017 as well. This time the partners reinforced the campaign, together with the German Mineral Resources Agency and the Ministry of the Environment of Baden-Württemberg, with various educational measures. For example, they redesigned the "cell phone raw materials kit" for school classes. The kit contains various minerals that are used in cell phones. Using accompanying teaching materials, teachers can explain the significance of the raw materials in smartphones to their students.

The Responsibility and Sustainability. Join in! collection campaign in the state of Saarland, which we have been supporting since 2014, was extended until the end of 2018 due to ongoing interest. We are still a cooperation partner to the campaign, which focuses on projects such as providing special course material on the topics of cell phone collection and resource efficiency. Mutual cell phone collection campaigns with Saarland companies and institutions are a further focus.

Cornelia Szyszkowitz

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Cornelia Szyszkowitz

Saving resources and protecting the environment

With our health, safety and environmental management system (HSE img) we have made a commitment to continually improving our performance in these areas. The system is based on international standards OHSAS 18001 img on occupational health and safety and ISO 14001 on environmental management.

As a service provider, we use considerably less resources than manufacturing companies. The resource utilization for the manufacturing and use of our products occurs in up- and downstream stages of the value chain - at our suppliers and customers. Within our value chain, we are committed to the responsible handling of resources. This means that we support the responsible use of raw materials by our suppliers and the re-utilization of materials by our customers. For example, we support cell-phone collection initiatives in various countries to facilitate the recovery of valuable resources. For this purpose, we have introduced the Used Cell-Phone Collection ESG img KPI, which compares the number of cell phones in circulation (excluding TMUS) to the number of collected devices. We support cell-phone collection initiatives in different countries to facilitate the recovery of valuable resources. For this purpose, we have introduced the Used Cell-Phone Collection ESG KPI, which compares the number of cell phones (excluding TMUS) in circulation to the number of collected devices.

We regularly collect Group-wide data on the amount of waste we produce. Our International Waste Management Framework guarantees standardized guidelines for all of our national companies. They are required to use this framework as a basis for identifying their own measurable targets and then monitor target achievement. This approach makes it possible to flexibly address the specific requirements of each country and company without working with quantitative objectives.

Resource efficiency is also a priority at the workplace. We use recycled paper and energy-efficient multifunctional printers and encourage procurement of green office materials. In order to reduce the amount of paper used throughout the Group, we ask our employees to have their salary statements sent to their "De-Mail" account instead of having a printout sent by post. Around 20 percent of employees have already canceled delivery by post.

Waste reduction and recycling

Our waste management is organized according to uniform principles across the Group. The implementation lies in the responsibility of the national companies. On a Group level, we have not set a goal for the reduction of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Instead, our national companies are developing their own waste strategies or updating their current strategies on the basis of our International Waste Management Framework, which we adopted in 2013. They are also setting their own targets, with the reduction of hazardous waste such as lead batteries having top priority.

Our contribution to the SDGs

Requirements for Group-wide copper cable recycling
Copper cables were a main component of telephone lines for decades. These are being replaced over the course of our fiber-optic roll-out. In January 2016, we therefore introduced a Group-wide, mandatory policy requiring copper cable recycling. This policy provides a guideline to our national companies when it comes to recycling and disposal of used cables.

Testing on recovery of tantalum from electronic scrap

Our contribution to the SDGs

With our switch-over to IP img technology and dismantling of analog infrastructure, we will be removing tons of old electronics over the next few years. We intend to recover precious metals such as gold and tantalum from the scrap. However, there are not yet suitable recycling methods for all metals. The tantalum used to manufacture condensers is extracted from coltan, which is considered a conflict resource. For this reason we have been conducting a project together with the bifa Umweltinstitut environment institute since 2013. The goal is to develop the perfect method for disassembling and recycling tantalum condensers. Different manual and automated methods for disassembling tantalum condensers were tested. Based on the results, we opted for an automated method in 2016. The circuit boards will be disassembled using thermal treatment. In order to implement the method in regular operations, a sufficiently high amount of electrical waste would be required. In 2017, we have not yet been able to provide this. We are planning to implement this method starting in 2018.

Together against conflict resources

Deutsche Telekom has supported the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) since it was founded in 2008 under the name Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI). RMI is the largest business initiative for responsible raw materials sourcing. Its objective is to identify conflict resources and prevent their extraction and sale.

RMI is based on a working group that was founded in 2008 by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative img and the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition industry associations (Extractives Working Group) to address sustainable raw materials extraction. Since then, the number of metal processing companies and smelters participating in RMI has continued to grow. A total of 255 of these companies have been audited in compliance with the standard audit protocol (as of January 2018).