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  • Act responsibly. Enable sustainability.
  • 2018 Corporate Responsibility Report
2018 Corporate Responsibility Report

Circular economy and resource efficiency

Using resources responsibly is increasingly a priority for society as a whole, and thus also for our customers. We make every effort to be careful in our use of resources, which is why we support the circular economy approach based on three key elements – avoid, reduce, and reuse. The “Sustainable products and services” section provides details of how we are already applying the circular economy concept.

One key aspect in this context is the responsible use of raw materials, which should be returned to the production process at the end of the product life cycle as far as possible. We can ensure almost all leased devices are reused. This increases the devices’ useful life, which has a positive impact on our life cycle assessment. It goes without saying that we also collect old devices so as to enable raw materials to be recycled professionally and reintroduced into the cycle of recyclable resources. We are intending to further increase the collection of old devices in the coming years.

There are a lot of areas where digitalization can also help conserve valuable resources and protect the environment. One example is “dematerialization”. Companies that store their data in the cloud no longer need a hard drive. Doing away with your hard drive conserves natural resources, reduces electricity consumption, and generates less waste. One of the ways we support this development is by expanding our cloud services.

The “sharing instead of owning” approach also contributes significantly to resource conservation. Many “sharing economy” services, such as car sharing, are only possible thanks to a network infrastructure expanded to accommodate full coverage. By expanding our networks, we are laying the foundations for new, innovative sharing services. At the same time, we have set ourselves the goal of using our expertise to support sharing concepts and driving them forward with corresponding products and services.

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 ISO 45001 on occupational health and safety and ISO 14001 on environmental management.

As a service provider, we use considerably fewer 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 – with our suppliers and customers. Within our value chain, we are committed to the responsible handling of resources. This means we encourage 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. To this end, we have introduced the Take Back Mobile Devices ESG img KPI img, which compares the number of cell phones (excluding T-Mobile US) brought to market to the number of used devices collected.

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, coupled with the absence of quantitative specifications, gives us flexibility when addressing the specific requirements of each country and company.

The new Group-wide initiative “Stop Wasting – Start Caring!” brings both ongoing and new resource conservation projects together under one roof, and reinforces the movement for more sustainability throughout the entire Group.

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. We hope to continuously increase this percentage over the coming years.

A new Group-wide initiative: Stop Wasting – Start Caring!

Our contribution to the SDGs

The “Stop Wasting – Start Caring!” initiative launched by CEO Timotheus Höttges provides a new platform for the Group’s long-standing commitment to greater resource efficiency. The aim is to either avoid using resources such as plastic, paper, and packaging, or replace them with environmentally friendly alternatives. If that is not possible, these materials should be used as efficiently as possible and then recycled. In doing so, we are helping support the circular economy.
The starting shot for the initiative was fired in September 2018, and we now have close to 100 Group employees in Germany acting as “Green Pioneers” as well as a large number of other supporters.

“Stop Wasting – Start Caring!” has already seen multiple specialist working groups form that focus on relevant subject areas such as “sustainable device design”, “sustainable packaging”, “logistics”, “catering”, and “green points of sale”.

Besides these working groups, the “Stop Wasting – Start Caring!” campaign also involves the in-house “Green Pioneers” ambassador program. Within this framework, environmentally minded employees discuss and present existing and new, innovative ways to boost resource efficiency, including on the “you and me” (YAM) in-house social platform. These “Green Pioneers” share their experiences, organize activities, come together with colleagues from other disciplines to work on projects, or join pre-existing specialist working groups. The aim behind this in-house ambassador program is to promote a fundamental change in perspective with regard to responsible management and conduct in all Group areas.

Examples of initial activities
Together with our canteen operator Sodexo, the “Catering” specialist group has already secured its first success by banning straws and plastic spoons in our canteens throughout Germany. Instead, employees now use metal spoons to stir their hot drinks. In addition, special dispensers have been installed to reduce the number of napkins used. We will provide kitchenettes with water dispensers at our largest German sites by June 2019, before progressing to other locations. Since the end of 2018, we have also been trialing reusable cups from RECUP at two sites’ canteens in a bid to do away with disposable cups. In terms of “logistics”, we are making a dedicated effort to reduce, among other things, the plastic used in protective packaging, the number of returns, and paper consumption by deploying print-on-demand solutions and using more digital documents, for instance. Product and packaging design experts are endeavoring to use more recycled plastic in products such as routers and telephones. Our Speedport Pro router, which we manufacture using recycled plastic, is just one example of how we are already making good progress in this respect. Another example is how we now dispatch our media receivers in protective packaging that contains less plastic. You can find out more about this in the Customers and Products section. 
We are keen to gradually launch more projects, and increase the outreach of existing ones, as part of “Stop Wasting – Start Caring!” in the future. The initiative has also been presented to the national companies so it can be established outside of Germany with the relevant regional focus.

The “Stop Wasting – Start Caring!” initiative in our national companies

The “Stop Wasting – Start Caring!” initiative in our national companies

Waste reduction and recycling

Our contribution to the SDGs

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.

Logistics – less packaging waste
We’ve all been there – after ordering a small item, it comes delivered in a disproportionately large box filled with extra material to protect it from damage during transportation. Deutsche Telekom has come up with a solution for precisely this problem with its partner Packsize, which has developed a machine that makes it possible to produce the exact box size required for the outgoing item “just in time” – and without major wastage. To ensure reliability and prevent outages, two machines, which are supplied with fanfold corrugated and can produce a delivery box in around ten seconds, constantly run at the same time. The fanfold corrugated in question is available in various widths and qualities. The machines have been in operation since the end of 2017. Depending on the type of delivery, we use up to 50 percent less cardboard packaging and up to 95 percent less filling material as a result.

Requirements for Group-wide copper cable recycling
Copper cables were a main component of telephone lines for decades. These are being partially replaced over the course of our fiber-optic roll-out. In 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 the recycling and disposal of used cables.

Trialing methods for recovering tantalum from electronic scrap
In light of the switch to IP img technology and the dismantling of analog infrastructures, we will disassemble tons of old electronics over the coming 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, with circuit boards disassembled using thermal treatment. In order to implement the method in regular operations, a sufficiently high amount of electrical waste would be required. So far, the potential amounts have been insufficient to render this method economical. We will review this aspect again in due course.

Initiatives for resource efficiency at the workplace

We try to use as many green office supplies as possible in order to improve resource efficiency at the workplace. A total of 19 percent of products are classified as sustainable in our office products catalog in Germany. In 2018, the percentage of sustainable products ordered was 22 percent. Examples include paper distinguished with the “Blue Angel” eco-label or “Nordic Swan” certification. Some of our office products have also been honored with the EU Flower eco-label, the Fairtrade seal, and the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and the PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes) eco-labels. On January 1, 2018, we moved to purchasing exclusively environmentally friendly office paper from a paper wholesaler.

During this reporting year, we also added further sustainably made products to our range of giveaway items. As we did last year, we repeatedly sold leftover giveaway items and corporate clothing to our employees at our Bonn site and in the online shop, meaning that we did not have to discard unused stock. These activities were very well received this year as well. Furthermore, our “you and me” social network offers employees a platform to swap office materials they no longer need instead of ordering fresh supplies.

We have also already set about modernizing the media technology used within our company to meet the requirements laid down in the Minamata Convention, which will take effect under the United Nations Environment Programme in 2020. After this point, the highly toxic heavy metal mercury is to disappear from all light sources. As Germany is one of 128 nations that have already undertaken to abstain from using mercury, we are currently replacing devices that still contain this heavy metal with new mercury-free versions and sending the old devices to be professionally recycled or disposed of. Where possible, we are opting for projectors with state-of-the-art lasers or laser-LED hybrids that work without any conventional lamps.

As in previous years, we extended our “IT remarketing” project into 2018, which involves reconditioning our used IT hardware for further use. We continue to maintain our partnership with “AfB gemeinnützige GmbH”, which offers job opportunities to people with disabilities. Within the scope of this partnership, we will give some of our used IT hardware (e.g., laptops) to the organization in the future for reconditioning and reselling. This will not only help us save resources but also create jobs for people with disabilities as well as extend the life cycle of our used hardware.

Climate Protection at OTE-COSMOTE

The OTE Group is integrating the principles of a circular economy in its operations across the value chain. Waste management is a core element of this process and specific, diverse programs have been developed to enable effectiveness and to increase awareness.

The OTE Group has been implementing an internal recycling program for packaging materials and paper. The program is based on the principle of “sorting-at-source” with centralized waste collection and management. The adoption of the recycling program empowers us to contribute to achieving national recycling targets for packaging materials in a quantifiable and well-documented manner, as well as to enhance environmental awareness among our employees.

In 2018, 206 recycling stations and more than 3,100 paper recycling bins were deployed in 17 of our buildings nationwide, covering about 9000 employees.

The amounts recycled in 2018 were as follows:

•    Paper: 72.64 metric tons
•    Plastic: 5.6 metric tons
•    Aluminum 832 kg

An internal communication campaign was run during the summer with the message: “The planet can take no more”. The aim of this campaign was to improve employees’ awareness of the effect of plastic bottles and to inform them about the need to take immediate action by starting to recycle them.

The OTE Group was the first company in Greece to implement refurbishment processes for end devices (ADSL img, VDSL img, VoIP modems, and TV decoders), and so far it remains the only company there to adopt this approach. As a result, this is facilitating the expansion of lifetime and overall utilization of the equipment supplied to customers of COSMOTE and the GERMANOS retail network. Proper end-of-life management of end devices is also being implemented. In 2018, more than 190,000 end devices were collected, over 170,000 of which have already been refurbished. More than 9,500 items were forwarded for recycling.

Moreover, the COSMOTE & GERMANOS retail network has set up a take-back scheme for phones, accessories, tablets, home batteries, and ink cartridges in order to facilitate the recycling of products sold at the end of their useful lifetime. In 2018, more than 40 tons of batteries, ink cartridges, phone devices, and tablets were collected in the COSMOTE & GERMANOS retail network.

Stimulating Circularity in the Telecom Sector of the Netherlands

After the “plastic soup”, as the large amounts of plastic floating in our Oceans are often called, e-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. This is also at risk of becoming a serious problem. T-Mobile Netherlands puts substantial efforts into dealing with this problem through the Recycle Movement. This initiative is an innovative recycling program that addresses e-waste in an innovative way and stimulates circularity in the telecom sector. The Recycle Deal is part of the Recycle Movement in which T-Mobile offers customers the latest mobile phone and enables them make an active contribution to reducing e-waste. Customers will be given the option to sell a device back to T-Mobile after a contract has expired and it will then be recycled or offered for reuse.

Over seven billion smartphones have been produced worldwide over the past decade. After customers purchase a new phone, old appliances all too frequently end up at the bottom of the kitchen drawer or are discarded with general waste. As a telecom provider, we now need to live up to our responsibility and actively contribute to a more sustainable use of the valuable raw materials, such as gold, silver and copper, which are contained in old mobile phones. That responsibility does not stop until the end of the lifespan of an appliance when raw materials can be reused.

The company's approach enables it to work together with its employees, customers, and partners in the Recycle Movement. This is a big step towards circularity in the telecom sector and in our ambition to transform mobile phones into waste-free tools. Hopefully, others in the sector will also participate.

The new program involves T-Mobile working closely with Closing the Loop, winner of the Circular Award, with its unique One-for-One concept. Two thirds of all devices that are reused will end up in countries where there is no responsible recycling infrastructure. Likewise, many smartphones  end up in these countries for a third and sometimes fourth life. At the end of their useful lifespan, they are put on the rubbish dump. In order to ensure that devices from these countries are also safely recycled, T-Mobile is working closely together with Closing the Loop in the new recycling program. This organization has developed a unique One-for-One concept, where a 'waste telephone' from the e-waste rubbish dump is saved for every phone that gets a second life. Together with local partners in Africa and Asia, they ensure that the metals extracted for the production of one new mobile phone are compensated by collecting and recycling one 'waste telephone'. T-Mobile strives to ensure that a 'waste device' is recycled for every device that is sold back to T-Mobile.

Sale and Reuse of Electrical and Electronic Equipment at T-Systems Iberia

T-Systems Iberia has been contributing to the idea behind the Stop Wasting – Start Caring! initiative since 2012.

Since 2012, T-Systems has been handing over redundant electrical and electronic equipment to Kapema. This company is committed to refurbishing and reselling this type of equipment. Employees at T-Systems are given top priority for the resale of any equipment. This scheme has greatly reduced the amount of electrical and electronic waste generated. During 2018, 359 laptops and 45 desktops were sold. This has exerted a significant impact through reducing emissions from devices by 2,110 kg.