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Everything Everywhere 2012: Leaves us with a taste for more

By Alison Mclernon (BeyondBusiness) on August 05, 2013 at 10:35am.
Company:

Everything Everywhere (EE) is a UK digital communications company, formed in 2010 when France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom merged their UK mobile companies, Orange and T-Mobile. EE runs the EE, Orange and T-Mobile brands in the UK and is the biggest mobile network in the UK. EE has more than 15,000 employees in their 3 head offices, 6 UK based contact centres and over 600 country wide shops. EE provide services to over 26 million customers, almost half of the UK, and group revenue for 2012 was £6.7 billion.

Content:

This is EE's first CR report, a commendable effort which leaves us with a taste for more:

More of a Good Thing
The report describes ambitious objectives such as improving the digital skills of one million people in Britain and a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2015 from a 2010 baseline. Such an ambitious start left me hoping that they would succeed in their goals and curious to know how they would achieve them. The report projects a serious approach to improving corporate responsibility impacts and a clear set of priority issues with related quantitative and measurable KPIs. One of EE's highest priority goals is to embed responsibility into their culture, an important step and a challenge for any company, certainly one of this size (over 15,000 employees). Using the Business in the Community Corporate Responsibility Index as a guide, and after an initial result of 53%, EE improved their score to 82%, in the space of one year, exceeding a target of 70%. EE has an apprentice scheme targeting 500 apprentices by 2015. This is of particular note given that 4 of their 6 contact centres are in regions where unemployment levels are above the national average. EE does much to consider the less advantaged, with volunteer programmes where employees help elderly citizens come to grips with technology, training employees to enable them to better serve customers with disabilities, and encouraging employees in a range of volunteering and fund raising efforts.

More Information especially Environmental Focus
However, throughout the report I repeatedly found myself wishing that I had more information; EE discusses diversity in the workplace but does not provide a current diversity breakdown of employees. EE places improving supply chain sustainability as a top priority issue and yet dedicates only one page of the report to this subject (versus two pages to most other priority issues). Minimal information is provided regarding concrete actions taken with the exception of supplier assessment and identification of high risk suppliers. Apart from general references to plans to support the highest risk suppliers in developing improvement plans, EE gives no details. EE fails to disclose the number of suppliers classified as high risk or the percentage of total suppliers this represents. EE has a Supplier Ethical Charter which covers fair labour and bribery issues adequately but lesser coverage of environmental issues. EE has made good headway in reducing carbon footprint by reducing the energy usage of their networks and energy consumption in their offices and contact centres. However, EE makes no mention of any efforts to address employee commuting habits, fleet efficiencies or efforts to reduce supply chain emissions (Scope 3). Waste reduction efforts include increased recycling of office waste and efforts to encourage customers to recycle old phones by offering cash in return, although no details indicate the success of this effort. Additionally, while EE mentions that old equipment is redeployed by their recycling partner, there is no information regarding recycling percentage and while they mention minimising product packaging, there is no indication of what is actually being done in this area.

EE could make a truly meaningful environmental impact through its supply chain and I would like to see more robust supply chain targets in areas such as conflict mineral usage, and waste and pollution reduction. The report also contains comments such as “during restructuring we considered…..the environmental quality of the land once the sites had been decommissioned” but no indication is given as to whether anything was done in this area beyond considering.

Communication:

The report is in PDF format and has a clean and simple layout, and much of the quantitative data reported is contained in the GRI Index at the end of the report, with supporting narrative in the body of the report where relevant. The report is set out under their two themes, Sharing Connectivity and Building Trust, the former covers EE's goal to improve the digital skills of one million people while the latter provides details of performance and targets for each of EE's priority issues which cover supply chain, employees, environment, customers and community. The report is structured in twelve issue-based sections, which makes sense to help stakeholders to quickly identify what's important to them.

Credibility:

This first sustainability report is a promising beginning which gives us a taste for more, which would include long term targets and more robust action plans, especially in environmental topics. Achievements to date in many areas offer confidence that EE will continue to move forward. A set of priority responsibility issues and related KPIs is a good platform for action. As an aside, EE states that this report is "self-assured" at GRI Application Level B. "Self-assured" is usually used as a term denoting self-confidence – perhaps EE meant "self-declared"! In some cases, actual disclosures do not match GRI requirements, and in any event, only 19 Performance Indicators are declared as fully reported, so it is questionable as to whether this actually does meet GRI Application Level B requirements, ‘self-assured’ or otherwise.

Olef Swantee, CEO states that “Within building trust there are two main areas of focus where we believe we can make the most significant social, economic and environmental impact – developing the workforce of the future, and minimising our environmental impact.” EE has made notable progress in the first area of focus, however in the second, environmental impact, there appears to be significant additional opportunity. Further, in the big issue of improving digital skills of one million people in Britain, EE offers no clear measurement for how this will be achieved. Of course we must remember that this a first report and not everything can be achieved at once. EE leaves us with a taste for more, both in terms of action plans and longer range target-setting across more key areas of impact.

Recommendations:
  1. Set out longer term goals with interim targets.
  2. Disclose more concrete information on plans to achieve goals and targets.
  3. Report more outcomes rather than activities.

Alison Mclernon is a Sustainability Analyst with a strong background in financial analysis of corporations and environmental research, working with Beyond Business Ltd www.b-yond.biz