Striving to ensure compatibility with a circular economy is one of the focal points of our corporate responsibility strategy. By 2030, we want to be leading the way in the circular economy and implementing it for our technologies and devices. To achieve this, we are addressing a range of issues, from product design and sustainable products that promote a circular economy to sustainable product packaging, holistic waste management, and circular approaches for our network technology. Through this approach, our products and services can also help our customers play their part in conserving resources.
Sustainability by design – green from the ground up
To ensure products have a long service life and can be reconditioned or recycled to the highest possible standard, it is essential to lay the right foundations when developing them. Which materials are going to be used? Are individual parts being installed in such a way that they can be easily repaired or replaced? At the end of its life, can the product be easily broken down into its constituent parts so materials can be reused and waste avoided? Our “Sustainability by Design” guideline gives product developers at Deutsche Telekom clear support when it comes to making important decisions so that the circular economy can be factored into products before they even go into production. One example of a product that has been designed based on sustainable principles and is already in use by millions of customers is our Speedport Smart4.
Rental models and the reconditioning or recycling of fixed-network devices or smartphones have long been important elements of our ecologically sustainable portfolio. For example, these approaches extend the service life of individual products and help to shrink their environmental footprint. The smartphone recycling scheme makes it easy for customers to play their part in building a circular economy. There are similar models for business customers. If someone is looking for a new device, they can check the eco ratings of more than 150 models from a range of manufacturers to get an idea of how eco-friendly the devices are before they buy. This helps consumers make purchasing decisions that are more sustainable – as do the #GoodMagenta and #GreenMagenta labels that highlight products with particular sustainability benefits. By making donations for used devices that are handed back (for example, as part of our “Good Cause” initiative), we are also encouraging the customers of our European national companies to help get valuable raw materials back into circulation.
More than just a shell – sustainable packaging
We have set out to reduce packaging materials and are switching our product packaging over to sustainable alternatives. For example, all Deutsche Telekom-branded products newly launched on the German and European markets since mid-2022 have been sustainably packaged. We have laid out the relevant sustainability criteria in a packaging guideline. Wherever possible, we use recyclable and biodegradable materials, recycled paper, and non-toxic labels and printing (e.g., using soy ink), and we have completely eliminated single-use plastic from our packaging, among other things. We can also influence our suppliers and are therefore continuously increasing the proportion of sustainably packaged products across our entire portfolio. What’s more, we are making our logistics operations more sustainable, for example by optimizing our dispatch packaging.
Waste management and recycling
We are careful with resources – and likewise with waste. Waste management throughout our entire Group is organized consistently in line with the “international framework for waste management”. We strive to recycle as much of our waste as possible and use clearly defined key performance indicators to track our progress, for example for the recycling of legacy copper cables.
Dematerialization and the sharing economy
Although making sure our technologies and devices are compatible with a circular economy is a very important step, our products themselves can also help to conserve many resources. For example, digital twins are an alternative to prototypes that use up resources. On-demand production also ensures that goods are increasingly only manufactured when customers have actually ordered them on an online platform, which enables companies to avoid overproduction and therefore waste. Online sharing and lending networks are additional examples of pragmatic ways that people can leverage digitalization to reduce resource consumption – and often save money at the same time.