United for human rights

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Mobile phones, hardware and the like all go through global supply chains to reach the customer. Is there a sustainable supplier management for this? How does the topic of human rights fit into it? Deutsche Telekom discussed these issues during Dialog Day with 130 participants in Bonn.


Some parts come from Asia, raw materials for them come from Africa and workers in factories around the world contribute their part – global value chains bring it all together to create the finished mobile phone. To what extent can ethical responsibility in such chains be increased and made more manageable? This question was at the heart of the sixth Dialog Day and redefines what constitutes sustainable procurement for Deutsche Telekom.

Suppliers and business partners such as Ericsson, Huawei, IBM, BMW and Deutsche Post were all there. Experts from the United Nations and for the first time from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that advocate for human rights, the environment and transparency also joined. "Deutsche Telekom honors its responsibility," said Board member Thomas Kremer. "Therefore, we need procurement partners that meet the claims in our Code of Conduct and Social Charter."

Sustainability needs continuity Birgit Klesper, Senior Vice President of Transformational Change and Corporate Responsibility at Deutsche Telekom, also made clear that this path is being successfully pursued with DT’s suppliers. The Group carries out a firmly established selection process based on the social and environmental standards of its suppliers before it enters into cooperation with them. Deutsche Telekom also evaluates its partners’ procedures on site on a regular basis in the form of audit programs. "We not only place high demands on our suppliers, we also support their development," Klesper said. "For example, in workshops on the topics of energy efficiency and sustainable product development."

Eva Wimmers, Head of Group-wide Procurement, said: "First and foremost, Deutsche Telekom wants to be a pioneer and put more emphasis on trust and continuity." According to Wimmers, it doesn’t help to condemn suppliers when there’s a problem. Instead, Deutsche Telekom wants to find solutions by bringing them to the table, because "suppliers will not improve anything if we withdraw. Just the contrary will happen. Revenues will be lost and therefore also sustainability," she emphasized. Secondly, suppliers in the global value chain must – depending on the customer – hold to different rules of sustainability. This requires a uniform set of rules. "It’s the only way for companies to build up the necessary processes," Wimmers states.

A single set of rules With this in mind, the participants worked together in three workshops to develop their recommendations for Deutsche Telekom. The Group is collecting these important ideas from supplier companies, DT employees and NGOs to develop solutions for the future. It became clear at the event that the sixth Dialog Day gave an impetus that rippled out to both the supplier companies and DT, as the managers emphasized in unison. "The issue of human rights cannot be solved by one company alone. The alliance between industry, government and NGOs is essential for the success of our efforts," Klesper summed up. Wimmers associates the move towards greater mutual trust and a single set of rules with a change in attitudes in the industry. "Partnering and a dialogue-filled procurement define our procurement culture at Deutsche Telekom," she said.