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Corporate Responsibility

Human rights

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At Deutsche Telekom we are committed to acting responsibly, in everything that we do. As a global leader in telecommunication solutions, our goal is to contribute positively to the major societal and ecological developments of our age. We understand that universal human rights are a prerequisite for these ambitions.

Graphic: Human rights due diligence at Deutsche Telekom

We respect all the fundamental human rights laid out in the International Bill of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization’s Core Labour Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and ten Principles of the UN Global Compact.  We spell out this commitment in our Code of Human Rights and further policies and regulations. We are dedicated to respecting human rights and strive to prevent adverse human rights impacts related to our operations, our suppliers, and our customers at the global or local level.

Our human rights map

Our human rights maps show areas where people could be potentially negatively or positively impacted by our operations and business relationships. It provides orientation for our human rights’ due diligence activities. We acknowledge that human rights focus areas may change as our business evolves and commit to continuously review and amend these topic areas and related human rights due diligence activities.  

Human Rights map

Human Rights map.

Deutsche Telekom value chain

Deutsche Telekom value chain.

Our Due Diligence, Overview and Details 

We have developed a comprehensive environmental and human rights-related due diligence program in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Our actions are based on legal requirements such as the German Supply Chain Act, international standards, and also the constant involvement of all our stakeholders, as well as the collaboration between our Group units. 

Governance and Commitment

Our Code of Human Rights codifies our commitment to respect human rights. It is supplemented by various other internal and external policies. We have put a governance structure in place to oversee the implementation of these commitments. 

  • The Corporate Responsibility Department is responsible for the group wide human rights strategy. This department is directly assigned to the Board of the Chief Executive Officer.  It includes a Contact Point for Human Rights that is managing the topic at group level which includes the whole human rights due diligence process. It is supported by a Global Human Rights Working Group, which consists of representatives from different functions. Directors of local units hold the overall responsibility for implementing human rights due diligence on the local and regional level, reporting back on an annual basis.
  • The Senior VP Group Corporate Responsibility has overall strategic oversight over human rights.
  • A dedicated CR Board informs all Managing Directors regularly about human rights progress 

Risk and impact assessments

We continually assess human rights risks and impacts at Group and local level through different methods. 
These include:

  • Our Contact Point for Human Rights at Group level has established processes with local and Group functions to monitor risks and gather data from these functions, incl. HR, HSE, Internal Revision.
  • Our Human Rights Cockpit monitors indicators on employee-related topics from global and local locations 
  • An annual Human Rights & Social Performance Report assesses the state of implementation of our Human Rights Code across all functions of our business. 
  • We conduct annual sustainability risk assessments across our supply chains which include human rights. We use tools such as EcoVadis, RepRisk, social audits and mobile surveys conducted by internal and external experts.
  • We regularly conduct human rights risk assessments (HRIA) at international locations that are considered high risk. .
  • We follow a systematic approach to monitoring all our local functions’ adherence to our Employee Relations Policy, considering their specific local contexts. Focus topics include wages, non-discrimination, freedom of expression, virtual work, diversity and work-life-balance. You can read more about Employee Relations Assessments here.

Taking action to prevent and mitigate

We are taking action to prevent and mitigate negative impacts on rightsholders. These measures are continuously refined and developed, to respond to changing risk and business context. 

Examples of how we take action:

  • Training: We offer a voluntary Human Rights Training for all our employees Group wide including topics such as discrimination, freedom of expression, data privacy etc. 
  • And we offer mandatory compliance trainings including human rights topics for our suppliers
  • Supply chain: We have established a comprehensive supply chain risk assessment programme. We cover social and environmental aspects as well as human rights risks as part of the supplier selection process and regularly conduct supply chain sustainability assessments. We do have supplier development programmes in place to enhance suppliers’ sustainability capabilities.
  • Action plans following HRIA and supplier assessments: Upon identifying human rights and other sustainability risks and impacts we develop and implement action plans to mitigate them. Actions may include awareness raising workshops on CSR/Sustainability matters or corrective and improving measures. We take action both locally and at Group level to address identified issues at the earliest time.

TellMe! whistleblower portal that can be used by anybody, anywhere in the world, to raise concerns

We aim to act responsibly in every dimension of our business activities – everywhere and at all times. We are working towards this goal every single day. We are aware that we must keep focusing on continuously reviewing and further developing our due diligence processes. Every concern raised helps us in this endeavor. We would therefore like to give all stakeholders the opportunity to express any concerns they may have about human rights-related or environmental issues that relate to Deutsche Telekom, and to draw our attention to any deficiencies. Our TellMe whistleblower portal offers an easy way to report any such concerns, and whistleblowers can remain anonymous if necessary. 

Perhaps you are aware of conduct that could harm other people, damage the environment, or compromise our integrity.  Such concerns include risks relating to human rights or the environment, the restriction of people’s freedom of speech, or violations within our supply chain – and could involve the actions of our employees in their business unit in one of the Group’s companies, or the actions of our suppliers or business partners.

Whistleblowers can also raise concerns about potential risks or violations.
These may relate to the provisions of the German Supply Chain Act, including: 

Human rights-related risks/violations – breaches of occupational health and safety (based on national regulations) / child labor below the legal minimum age / forced labor / slavery or practices akin to slavery / violations of the freedom of association / discrimination (background, disability, age, gender, religion) / failure to pay an appropriate wage (based on national regulations) / actions causing harmful soil changes, air or water pollution, harmful noise emissions, and excessive water consumption.

Environmental risks/violations – caused by involvement in the manufacture and disposal of products containing mercury / the production or use of certain persistent organic pollutants / risks caused by importing and exporting waste

Every concern raised will be examined by a team of experts

Every report will be thoroughly examined by a team of experts, suspected cases will be investigated, and any breaches rigorously followed up. These channels are open to everybody – our employees, our suppliers and contractors, our other business partners, workers in our supply chains, and society at large. 

Every whistleblower has the right to be protected from reprisals

If required by the whistleblower, all information given will be treated in confidence to the extent permitted by law. Whistleblowers can also choose to report any concern anonymously, using the online tool [link]. Furthermore, every whistleblower has the right to be protected from reprisals. Provided that whistleblowers have acted to the best of their knowledge and in good faith and have not broken any applicable law themselves, they will not suffer any disadvantage or harm as a result of raising their concern. Action may, however, be taken against a whistleblower who has deliberately made a false allegation. Deutsche Telekom will be rigorous about sanctioning and taking action against anybody who breaches the ban on reprisals against protected whistleblowers.

To ensure every whistleblower knows how we deal with a concern they raise, we publish our procedure here: 

Step 1 – getting in touch:

You can contact us via the following channels: 

Whichever way you choose, you can communicate in English or German. If you choose the anonymous online system, other languages are also possible. If, in a particular case, another language is needed to handle the concern that has been raised, a translation service can be used. All concerns raised will be recorded by our trained Compliance staff to be dealt with as prescribed by law and with all due consideration to protecting the whistleblower.

Step 2 – confirmation of receipt of the concern raised, generally within seven days: 

Every whistleblower will generally receive a confirmation of the concern they have raised within seven days. They will also be assigned a contact person for subsequent proceedings. We will endeavor to conduct communications in the language that will ensure the best possible understanding.  The matter will be forwarded to our team of experts for further processing.

Step 3 – the validity of the concern raised will be assessed by our team of experts: 

Our team of experts will assess the validity of the concern raised and assign further responsibilities. If the concern is rejected, the whistleblower will be advised of the reasons for this decision.  Our team of experts comprises legal experts from the relevant specialist areas. As a general rule, these legal experts are accredited in-house lawyers, who will act as independently and autonomously as possible when assessing the concern reported by the whistleblower. 

Step 4 – further measures to determine the facts in cooperation with whistleblowers and consulting other involved parties if necessary

Following consultation with the whistleblower, other involved parties may also be consulted in the course of further determining of facts. Proposals to remedy the situation will then be worked out, in consultation with the whistleblower, where appropriate. The whistleblower will generally be advised of the outcome of the procedure and any derived measures within around three months after the confirmation of receipt of the concern they have raised. 

Step 5 – conclusion of the procedure and archiving

We will archive the matter and a record of the remedial action taken as prescribed by law. Voluntary feedback from the whistleblower about the process as a whole, once the matter is closed, helps us with the further development and the annual effectiveness review of our complaints procedure.

We will always endeavor to adhere to the stated deadlines within the procedure. If, in a particular case, we anticipate a delay due to the need for additional measures to determine the facts, the whistleblower will be advised accordingly.

Using specific communications channels for other issues

  • For customer inquiries or customer complaints about Deutsche Telekom products and services, our experts working on the relevant customer hotlines will be pleased to help.
  • If you need to report a concern about threatened or actual act of violence (e.g., in the form of sexual harassment, radicalization, a bomb threat, or similar), please contact our Threat Management team directly. You can call +171 2235 756 or send an email to Bedrohungsmanagement@telekom.de and you will receive immediate support and information from our Threat Management employees. All inquiries will be treated in strict confidence. 

For employees of the Deutsche Telekom Group, other points of contact are provided on the in-house communications channels. For example:

  • Personal consultation when experiencing difficult situations at work or in private life (e.g., a personal crisis or a stressful situation relating to personnel management) is available to employees. To access this personal consultation service, please call BAD GmbH on +800 124 11 88.
  • Advice about acting in compliance with values and the law in day-to-day work – email: ask-me@telekom.de; telephone: 0228 181-3222

Monitoring and Reporting

We share our progress and challenges in our human rights’ due diligence in a transparent manner, internally and externally.

  • We publish an annual CR Report that covers human rights 
  • Our British subsidiary T-Systems ltd publishes annual Modern Slavery Statements
  • We contribute to relevant conferences and stakeholder events
  • An intranet page covering human rights due diligence, as well as regular information campaigns and awareness raising on prominent internal human rights risk topics such as discrimination.

Stakeholder involvement and networks

Deutsche Telekom takes itself as an active part of a global community and is committed to working with governments, industry, partners and civil society to fulfil its human rights commitments. 

We are working on human rights related topic, such as freedom of expression, discrimination etc.,  as part of the following national and international initiatives such as:

Telekom  supports the UN LGBT+ Standards of Conduct for Business

Deutsche Telekom AG supports the United Nations Standards of Conduct for Business to tackle discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBT+, + Plus sign stands for not excluding anyone ) people. “We are promoting an environment of mutual respect, tolerance and diversity. We stand up for human rights and promote openness and understanding in a digitalized and networked world. I am very pleased that we have adopted the UN's global LGBT+ Standards of Conduct for business,” said Birgit Klesper, Senior Vice President Corporate Responsibility.

Since 2000, Deutsche Telekom AG has been a member of the UN Global Compact, and is expressly committed to the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. “In joining 240 of the early supporters of the UN Global LGBT+ Standards for Business, Deutsche Telekom is sending a powerful signal to the ICT industry and beyond. As a responsible company, Deutsche Telekom is dedicated to respecting and protecting human rights including those of LGBT+ people.” said Fabrice Houdart, United Nations Human Rights Officer and co-author of the Standards. MagentaPride, the Group's LGBT+ employee network, is proud that Deutsche Telekom expressing its engagement to human rights by drawing the standards of conduct for business - tackling discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi, trans, & intersex people.

Focus area: Corporate Digital Responsibility 

Our greatest concern related to our technologies and products are, our customers’ rights to privacy, freedom of expression and online safety. We work hard to ensure that their personal data is handled transparently and responsibly, not compromising the individual’s privacy or safety. Read more on our positions and statement around data protection and consult our data protection status report.

Where we are legally required to share such data with governments, however, we apply a high standard of diligence and transparency as stated in our Transparency Report

We know that children are a group who are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation online. Through various initiatives and partnerships, we are working towards protecting minors beyond what the law requires from us, raising awareness, building media literacy and providing support to children and their support networks. Read more on our commitment to protection of minors here or on our national child online safety pages.

Our digital responsibility goes beyond the individual customer but also, we apply due diligence in developing and designing new products and technologies, especially such involving AI and IoT (Internet of Things). Our Guidelines for Artificial Intelligence outline the standards we apply to ensure new developments will not infringe on human rights, again with a focus on security and privacy. We are aware that our technologies including such using AI can serve as enablers of human rights globally. We are continuously striving to harness this potential. 

Employee Relations Policy

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