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
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 special buyback portal, 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. Campaigns took place in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia during the reporting period. At the end of the year we donated the proceeds from the devices collected through recycling and reuse to Netzwerk Entwicklungspolitik Saarland e.V. and the Freiburg “Natur und Mensch” (Nature and man) musuem to thus support educational projects.
In 2018 we collected exactly 187,028 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 erasure process that is DEKRA certified and complies with strict data protection requirements. Defective cell phones or devices where certified data erasure would be too costly are properly recycled using state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly processes at the Telekom Recycling Center. 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 cell phones with our Take Back Mobile Devices ESG KPI . Around 368,000 mobile devices were collected throughout the Group (not including T-Mobile US, AMC, Maktel, Crnogorski Telekom) in 2018.
Support of various collection campaigns
As in previous years, we supported the Die-Handy-Aktion cell phone campaign conducted by different church-affiliated groups in the state of Baden-Württemberg in 2018 as well. Together with the Ministry of the Environment of Baden-Württemberg, the campaign partners carried out a large number of measures in the educational sector. For example, they redesigned the “cell phone raw materials kit” with the German Mineral Resources Agency and presented it to school classes and youth groups. 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 renamed “Handy-Aktion Saarland” (Saarland cell phone campaign) in 2018. 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.
Information and recycling for World Environment Day
As part of World Environment Day we informed our customers in June 2018 about sustainable smartphone use and recycling used phones. On a special website set up for World Environment Day they were able, for example, to find out how the life of a smartphone can be extended and which collection points they can take their phone to at the end of its life cycle for it to be repaired or recycled. The tips were compiled by the Deutsche Telekom “Computerhilfe” service and additionally provided in the form of a readily understandable infographic. The infographic also includes current facts and figures on valuable resources in smartphones and their recycling. In the short video “Telekom Netz Tour 2018: Zerstören für die Nachhaltigkeit” (Telekom network tour 2018: destroying for sustainability) we also explain how we recycle and re-use smartphones.
With our health, safety, and environmental management system (HSE ) 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 KPI , 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.
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 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.
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 and the Responsible Business Alliance 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 258 of these companies have been audited in compliance with the standard audit protocol (as of December 2018).