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Our approach to protecting human rights

Our contribution to the SDGs

Deutsche Telekom has made an express commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights published by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011. These principles require businesses to systematically identify the impact their operations have on human rights, and to prevent, mitigate or compensate these where necessary. In order to meet these requirements, we have developed an extensive program to implement the UN Guiding Principles and introduced an ongoing process comprised of several interconnected measures and tools (see diagram).

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Mission statement on human rights

The obligation to respect human rights, individual rights and freedom of opinion, to safeguard the right to collective agreements and to guarantee diversity and equal opportunity is anchored in the following basic policies of Deutsche Telekom:

How we handle human rights complaints:
We receive complaints about possible human rights violations at all times via the anonymous whistleblower portal “Tell me!” and our contact point for human rights, which has been in place since 2013. The contact point can be reached via the public email address A complete overview of contact options can also be found on the “Tell me!” portal. We look into all tip-offs and reports received and introduce countermeasures as soon as the information is identified as plausible. You can find out how we handled the reports we received in 2019 here. In addition, human rights aspects have also been integrated since 2013 into due diligence activities conducted in the context of mergers and acquisitions.

Analysis of human rights risks and their potential impact:
To review the potential impact of our business activities on human rights, we prepare a central Human Rights & Social Performance Report every year. In 2019, all 117 of the companies surveyed declared in this report that they comply with the Code of Human Rights & Social Principles. The report indicated no violations for 2019. 

Human rights and employee relations at our national companies:
We also introduce special evaluation processes as required to assess employer-employee relations in the national companies with which we implement our Employee Relations Policy. In this context, we also take into account the results provided by our Human Rights & Employee Relations Cockpit. 

This is a tool to measure progress at our national companies on the basis of five indicators pertaining to human rights:

  • Employee satisfaction (source: semi-annual pulse survey)
  • Willingness to recommend Deutsche Telekom as an employer (source: semi-annual pulse survey)
  • Health rate (source: HSE cockpit)
  • Number of employees giving notice (source: HSE cockpit)
  • Human rights risks at national companies (according to Maplecroft Human Rights Risk Index)

The respective national company is classified according to a traffic light system for each key figure. The results are then discussed with the regional managers at the national companies and measures like human rights impact assessments and employee relations policy reviews are arranged as necessary.

Ensuring the effectiveness and adherence of human rights in the supply chain:
We expressly require our suppliers to assume responsibility as a way of making sure human rights are also protected within our sphere of influence outside of our Group. To this end, we supplemented our sustainable procurement strategy with supplier management to improve our sustainability performance in our supply chain and ensure respect for human rights. Audits of our suppliers are one component, among others. Detailed results of our Group-wide auditing program are available here.

Raising awareness, training, stakeholder engagement, & networks:
To ensure that human rights are safeguarded in accordance with our principles and our Code of Human Rights, we offer all employees worldwide online training courses on the subject of human rights. These are supplemented by internal communication campaigns with information about important aspects of the issue, such as anti-discrimination.

We are also involved in numerous networks such as the Global Compact and Econsense. Together with other companies, policymakers, and civil society, we can draw attention to existing grievances and press ahead with solutions.

“Code of Human Rights & Social Principles”

In 2017 we revised our Social Charter img and renamed it our “Code of Human Rights & Social Principles” . This was adopted by the Board of Management in November 2017. 

This update underscored our commitment to protecting human rights and to the goals of the German National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights adopted by the Federal Government in 2016. 

Our Code of Human Rights & Social Principles also represents our commitment to

  • the guidelines and Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy of the International Labour Organization (ILO img). 
  • the Convention of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD img), 
  • the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and  
  • the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the United Nations Global Compact.

Reports and inquiries regarding human rights

Between January 1 and December 31, 2019, we received eight reports related to human rights through our contact point for human rights or via the “Tell me!” whistleblower portal.

  • Most of the inquiries and reports related to the topic of “compliance and verification of human rights at Deutsche Telekom”. Not all of these tip-offs were deemed plausible. 
  • We also received several fundraising and support questions, which we forwarded to the appropriate departments. 
  • Of course, all reports were treated as confidential.

Human Rights and Social Performance Report KPI

Deutsche Telekom has made an express commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights published by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011 and has anchored these principles in its Code of Human Rights & Social Principles.

Social Performance Report
To review possible impacts on human rights, we have operated a central Contact Point for Human Rights since 2013, and we prepare a Social Performance Report each year. In 2019 all 117 fully consolidated companies of Deutsche Telekom state whether they comply with the principles of the Code of Human Rights & Social Principles. The report again shows no violations of our Social Charter img for January to December 2019.

Whistleblower Portal
Whistleblower portal 'Tell me!': 8 tip-offs relating to human rights issues in 2019.

Assessments & Review

  • A Human Rights Impact Assessment in 2019 (designed to assess the actual and potential consequences of corporate activities on human rights and the ability of the organization to prevent, mitigate, or compensate these consequences): T-Systems India.
  • An 'Employee Relations Policy' review in 2019: T-Mobile Polska und Deutsche Telekom Außendienst.

The Human Rights & Employee Relations Policy Cockpit is also used to measure impacts on human rights. To this end, the national companies collect data related to five human rights indicators and evaluate them according to a traffic light system.

  Data assured by PwC. 

Reporting against standards

Statements by the participants in the Social Performance Report are relevant for GRI Indicator G4-HR9 (Operations that have been subject to human rights reviews). Some of the information is relevant for the EFFAS indicator S07-02 (Percentage of total facilities certificated according to SA 8000 standard). It is furthermore relevant for criterion 17 (Human rights) of the German Sustainability Code. It is also used in our reporting on Global Compact Principles 1 and 2 (Protection of international human rights).

Yvonne Hommes

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Yvonne Hommes