Telekom Logo
  • 2017 Corporate Responsibility Report

Resource scarcity and raw materials sourcing

Production of electronic devices like smartphones is harmful to the environment and requires large amounts of water and energy. Because the production facilities of suppliers and manufacturers are often located in regions where water is scarce or the population does not have sufficient access to electricity, the availability of resources plays a more significant role there than it does in countries like Germany.

Moreover, valuable raw materials like metals are used in producing smartphones and other ICT img products. Some metals, including tantalum, gold, tin, and tungsten, are extracted from ores, some of which are extracted in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo under conditions that are inhumane and/or associated with civil war. The parties involved in conflict in the region use the profit for purposes such as financing civil wars. However, Deutsche Telekom does not manufacture any ICT products itself: We purchase these products from international manufacturers and sell them at our stores, offer them in the context of service provision, or use them in our network infrastructure. We require our suppliers to refrain from using any of these so-called conflict resources. We also support industry initiatives like the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative, which work toward a more sustainable supply chain.

Supporting responsible resource extraction

We require our suppliers to protect the environment and use resources responsibly. We have set forth these requirements in the document "Code of Human Rights & Social Principles"; they are also described in detail in our Supplier Code of Conduct. We require our suppliers to provide information on their activities as part of a self-assessment and conduct supplier audits to emphasize the importance of these requirements (audit results). In the scope of the audits, we check whether our suppliers use an environmental management system and how they manage their energy and water consumption, as well as other factors. We also explicitly ask them about their waste management system.

Our contribution to the SDGs

Handling critical raw materials
We collaborate with suppliers and industry initiatives to effect responsible raw materials sourcing. Although we do not purchase any raw materials ourselves, we do require our manufacturing suppliers not to use any conflict minerals or other such resources in their products. Our requirements are expressly and comprehensively set out in our "Coltan Statement" and "Statement on Extractives." These are an integral part of our contracts with manufacturing suppliers. The goal is for both our direct suppliers as well as their sub-suppliers to decrease social and societal risks that could be associated with the mining of resources. We verify implementation of our guidelines regarding conflict resources during our supplier controls as well. As a GeSI member we also actively support the GeSI img Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI). We strongly encourage our direct and indirect suppliers to utilize the RMI tools for ensuring responsible resource procurement.

Tantalum is a conflict resource. Recycled tantalum, on the other hand, is considered conflict-free, Telekom Deutschland is conducting a research project on reclaiming precious metals such as gold and tantalum from outdated network infrastructure components.


Expand all

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).

Cross-sector exchange for conflict-free resources

In August 2017 we took part in a workshop titled "Conflict Minerals – Transparency in the Supply Chain" given by missio, the international Catholic relief organization in Germany. Experts of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, the Südwind Institute, the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) and Deutsche Telekom reported on their experiences. We presented our commitment to raw material recycling with our cell phone collection program and our project for recycling the metal tantalum. The discussion also illustrated that this field is undergoing a lot of upheaval due to the new EU guidelines on transparency in the resource chain.