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Human rights are everyone’s concern

Human rights violations – they only happen in far-off lands, don’t they? Even though most of the cases of child labor, human trafficking, and catastrophic working conditions we hear about occur in developing or low-wage countries, western democracies are not immune to human rights abuses.

On our doorstep

Attacks on freedom of expression, religion, or assembly, discrimination against people who think differently or have a different sexual orientation – we can find examples of all these right on our doorstep and in the digital world. It is not just individuals who have a duty to respect human rights – companies also need to play their part. Furthermore, they can play a big part, whether in terms of health and safety in the workplace, living wages, anti-discrimination, or enforcing the ban on child and forced labor. Of course, companies can also set a good example. In 2020, we launched our #TAKEPART – No hate speech campaign to champion respectful online behavior.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were agreed in 2011 and require companies to systematically investigate how their business activities impact human rights. Companies are also required to prevent, mitigate, or if necessary make good any negative consequences. As an international Group, we are actively protecting human rights, both inside our company and beyond. We have made an express commitment to upholding the UN Guiding Principles and have developed a human rights program so we can meet the corresponding requirements.


SDG 8 - Decent work

Our measures support the eighth goal of the United Nations Agenda 2030.

Declaration on the protection of human rights

We have numerous guidelines that apply throughout the company worldwide, demonstrating our commitment to protect human rights. Together, they form what could be called our Human Rights Constitution. Our “Human Rights Code & Social Principles” sets out guidance for all employees and for our partners, investors, and Deutsche Telekom suppliers. This code includes a commitment to diversity and a ban on forced labor, human trafficking, modern slavery, and child labor.

Our Code of Conduct applies to all Deutsche Telekom employees. It gives them clear directions on how to conduct themselves appropriately. Another directive governs employee-employer relationships at Deutsche Telekom. This Employee Relations uses twelve key elements to outline what Deutsche Telekom as an employer stands for worldwide. For example, it is very important to us that our employees can enjoy freedom of expression. When developing innovative technologies, people still have to come first, which is why we have made this part of our Guidelines for Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Contact point for complaints

We would ask anyone who has reasons to believe that human rights, laws, or Deutsche Telekom regulations have been breached within our company to report them to us. Examples could include violations of someone’s freedom of expression or cases of discrimination or bullying. We investigate all reports and, where necessary, put in place countermeasures. There are various contact points:

1
Direct supervisors

If our employees have concerns regarding human rights, they can raise the issue with their direct supervisor personally at any time.

2
Contact point for
human rights

This contact point is open to everyone – regardless of whether they have a contractual or business relationship with us. Employees of our suppliers can also use this contact point. It can be reached by emailing humanrights@telekom.de.

3
The “Tell me!” whistleblower portal

People from outside the company and employees can use „Tell me!“ to report breaches or infringements of laws and internal regulations – with confidentiality guaranteed.

4
Anonymous
whistleblower
system

Whether whistleblowers are employees or externals, sometimes they will prefer to stay anonymous. They can achieve this using a certified, anonymous web form.

Analyzing human rights risks

We want to ensure our guidelines for protecting human rights are followed everywhere. That is why, each year, we review compliance with our Code of Human Rights & Social Principles and Employee Relations Policy. To do this, we evaluate our employee surveys, which tell us how satisfied employees are with us and how prepared they are to recommend Deutsche Telekom as an employer, for example. Another important factor is how high the general risk of human rights violations is in the relevant country. We check this based on a recognized international index (Maplecroft’s “Human Rights Risk Index”). We work with the responsible executives on site to evaluate the results. If it turns out that we need to do even better in certain areas, we carry out detailed interviews with employees. This enables us to put in place targeted improvement measures. If necessary, we also carry out a “Human Rights Impact Assessment”, which involves surveying our employees, management, and the employees of our suppliers, as well as holding talks with NGOs. These assessments are supplemented with workshops. The aim is to ensure our managers and employees are well trained and informed on the subject of human rights. We refer to the entire process as “Human Rights Impact Assessment and Engagement”. In 2020, we also carried out an internal “Human Rights Gap & Risk Assessment”, during which we worked with external specialists to investigate whether our processes and guidelines could be improved. This assessment is based on the requirements of the five key elements in Germany’s National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP) and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. An initial evaluation has shown we are already very well placed in many areas, such as our human rights assessments and our supply chain programs. It has also emerged that we should update individual guidelines and our communications on human rights issues. We will tackle these issues in 2021.


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Human rights among suppliers

We make sure that social working conditions are safeguarded among suppliers and that grievances are resolved. More information can be found here

Anchoring human rights protection in the entire company

The protection of human rights plays an important role in all parts of the company, naturally in the HR department, but also in Procurement, for example. In the latter case, we need to consider the products we are procuring from suppliers and take into account the working conditions under which these products have been manufactured. By contrast, the focus in the marketing department is on ensuring our advertising messages do not cause harm to anyone or discriminate against anyone. We have conducted an analysis to identify the areas at Deutsche Telekom where the protection of human rights plays an especially important role. Representatives from the various parts of the company also regularly discuss the latest requirements associated with protecting human rights.

Transparency and communication

Each year, we publish a Group-wide “Human Rights & Social Performance Report”. All Deutsche Telekom companies declare in this report that they comply with our Code of Human Rights & Social Principles. If there have been infractions, these are set out transparently. We also report regularly on the results of our assessments and checks in relation to human rights. Furthermore, this information is made available to our employees internally, on our “You and Me” (YAM) social network.

Raising awareness and networks

What does human rights protection mean for Deutsche Telekom? What can our employees do in their day-to-day work to ensure human rights are respected? We answer these questions and more like them in our online employee training course on human rights. The course is available worldwide and aims to reinforce awareness of human rights in the company. We also run regular internal training courses and communications campaigns related to human rights, particularly the issues of freedom of expression, anti-discrimination, and bullying.

The worlds of business, politics, and civil society need to work closely together to promote respect for human rights worldwide. We want to play our part in this, shine a light on abuses, and help develop appropriate solutions. That is why we are committed to various initiatives, such as the German Global Compact and the econsense network of companies. For us, engaging with the issue of human rights and carrying out relevant analyses in line with Germany’s National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP) is part of an ongoing process that we are continuously refining and, when necessary, adapting.