An article by Birgit Klesper, Senior Vice President Group Corporate Responsibility, Human Resources.
A witty saying I recently heard went like this: “Before I welcome in 2021, I’d like to read the fine print.” The joke draws on the anxiety about the future that is afflicting many people at the moment. It goes without saying that 2020 has been a demanding year for us, what with the pandemic, climate change, and so much unvarnished hate online. It’s easy to focus on the negative things. But, if we did, I don’t think we’d be doing the year justice.
Barbra Streisand once sang: “Change can come on tiptoe.” And when I take a closer look at the year 2020, I can see that sort of change in so many different areas. I don’t mean the pandemic, which of course sent us reeling. I mean my many colleagues who are actively advancing change every day. After all, though change comes on tiptoe and step by step, it needs a helping hand. That’s why I’d like to dedicate this article to all those who – no matter how difficult the environment – constantly do what they can to ensure we meet our challenges with persistence, ingenuity, and good humor.
Let's look at a few examples.
- The coronavirus pandemic: Do you remember how quickly Germany switched to working from home? Our network made that possible – as did all our colleagues in Service, Technology, and other units, who kept everything running. On top of that, we as a company naturally made our contribution to society for example by donating 10,000 smartphones for nursing and retirement homes and, at many of our international subsidiaries, helping disadvantaged groups #takepart despite physical distancing. Now, with winter upon us, we remain true to this spirit and are supporting people who work behind the scenes at live events with our charity festival #lauterwerden. These are just a few examples of how we at Deutsche Telekom have rolled up our sleeves and taken action in line with our Guiding Principles: “I am T, count on me,” “Get things done,” and “Act with respect and integrity.”
- Climate protection and resource conservation: The We care for our planet program team was formed at the start of the year. One of the first challenges the team members had to face was to transform themselves, in a very short space of time, from a diverse group of people from all Board departments into a virtual, but powerful, team. The results speak for themselves: Within just a few months, the workstreams comprising colleagues from all over the Group notched up impressive achievements. A new training module on sustainability issues targeting Telekom Shop employees was very well received; 35 metric tons of paper bags per year were replaced with more eco-friendly bags made of recycled plastic bottles, and more sustainable packaging was gradually introduced for our T-brand devices. In a push for greener facility management, 105 gigawatt hours of electricity have already been saved. That’s the equivalent of the power consumed by all the households of a medium-sized city (75,000 inhabitants). The Paperless Office initiative also achieved initial savings of 365 metric tons. And let’s not forget that, since the start of the year, we have been covering 100% of our power needs in Germany from renewable sources.
- Civil courage online: For many years, we as a Group have been committed to ensuring that everyone has the skills to use the internet autonomously. In 2020, we focused on an internet without hate, one in which everyone is treated with respect. Just how strongly people engage with this topic can be seen in the more than 63,000 people who listened in to our podcast Zivilcourage im Netz (Civil courage online). The related podcast series, online workshops, discussion rounds, ads, and articles enabled us to reach out to many millions of people across Germany and to raise their awareness of civil courage online, counterspeech, cyberbullying, hate speech, fake news, and filter bubbles. We also offer children, teenagers, parents, and other caregivers free training and self-learning modules, e.g., via our Toolbox and our #TAKEPART stories. And, because the fight against hate online is a task for society as a whole, we have coordinated our activities in this area with 44 different partners from civil society. After all, true to our purpose, we won’t stop until everyone is able to #takepart in the digital sphere without being afraid.
By the way, the success of our projects and activities has also gained recognition outside our Group: Despite even stricter requirements, we were again included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices World and Europe in 2020, meaning we were among the best 10 percent of the 78 telecommunications companies assessed worldwide. That was down to true teamwork between diverse departments – teamwork that makes us even more attractive, and not just in the financial markets.
When I look at all these achievements, I have to say: we’re ready for 2021. It’s going to be a challenging year: Climate change is waiting for no one to get ready and, fortunately, this realization has catapulted many companies into action when it comes to climate protection. For us this means we will work continuously to refine and enhance our own climate protection strategy, especially regarding our path towards climate neutrality. The EU Green Deal will bring some tricky challenges as well, for example emphasizing circularity and resource efficiency and we’ll have to find ways how to tackle them better and better. Last, but not least we see that the broad and positive reactions to our activities in the field of media competency and digital civil courage match an ongoing need in our society. Preparations for our 2021 activities are well underway. No matter what, we won’t stop advancing change. #WeWontStop.
Do you have any stories about small or big positive changes that you or teams in your business environment have made in 2020? Feel free to share them with us by posting a comment.