One event made an especially strong impression on me in 2018: When the German astronaut Alexander Gerst sent a video message to his future grandchildren from the International Space Station (ISS). He apologized that his generation would not leave them a world in the best of states – and also promised to do all he could “to enable the best future I can imagine.” What impressed me was his clear stance – and his belief that change for the better is possible.
Because what happens when this optimism in the future is lost was likewise demonstrated in 2018: In a world marked by a lot of upheaval, it is those who stoke fears about the future and lure people with seemingly simple truths who are gaining traction. After all, many are afraid of a loss of social status. The great pace of digital transformation is also partly to blame for that: People are worried that machines and artificial intelligence might do away with their job in the future. A sort of “aggressive nostalgia” is spreading in Europe at the moment: Vague fears about the future are vented as anger about the present.
We are actively tackling that by enabling people to participate in society. All people, in urban centers as well as in rural areas. At all times. Our task, our purpose, is to connect people. Our networks are the basis for that. Deutsche Telekom therefore believes it has the responsibility to encourage a society in which no one is left out, but everyone is included. We are aware that the success of the digital transformation in Europe – and hence prosperity and the quality of life of future generations – depends on our networks. That is why we build our networks for as many as possible and never for just a handful of privileged persons.
However, “what” we do is not only important – “how” we do it also counts. It is important for us to stand by our convictions. One example: If artificial intelligence evokes fears, we need to discuss what an ethical framework for its use might look like. That is why we drew up guidelines on the use of AI in 2018 and intend to develop them further in dialog with others. Because our company’s slogan is “Life is for sharing.” And we want to make that possible, because we believe that sharing brings people together. And that people can achieve more together than they could ever do on their own.
Our employees prove that day in, day out – not just in our core business, but also above and beyond. For instance, many of them have long been committed to preventing the waste of resources in their sphere of responsibility. For example, one team is targeting customers who are still receiving paper invoices by mail in order to convince them to switch to paperless online bills. In 2018 I launched the “Stop Wasting – Start Caring” initiative so that good ideas like that could be spread more strongly throughout the company. All employees can present their suggestions on how to save resources to our social network. In that way we can learn from each other and be inspired to follow suit.
We at Deutsche Telekom have given a lot of thought to curbing climate change: In our climate strategy to date, we have defined ambitious targets for significantly reducing CO2 by the year 2020. In 2018 we developed our climate strategy further and worked on new, science-based targets for the period after 2020. One focal aspect of our strategy will be to improve the potential of our products and solutions to protect the climate even further so as to help our customers save resources and cut CO2 emissions.
Other colleagues devote their energies day after day to making it easier for the more than 400 refugees who started at Deutsche Telekom as interns, apprentices or employees in 2018 to settle in and learn the ropes. And others are committed to strengthening media literacy skills in society, thus counteracting the growing spread of half-truths, alternative facts and fake news on the internet: As part of the “1001 truths” initiative, they are creating exciting interactive workshops on highly topical issues such as online opinion-making.
We also report extensively and transparently on our diverse sustainability activities in this year’s Sustainability Report.
We remain committed to the principles of the United Nations Global Compact and the German Sustainability Code. Both of these frameworks, along with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, guide us in what we do.