One-line summary: Investor focused, comprehensive and professional
A comprehensive report, supplemented by an on-line report and other reference documents. Deutsche Telekom has revamped their entire CSR strategy from Board level down, and this looks good. Clear evidence of this strategy in all the reporting areas. Good evidence of best-practice approach to Board engagement, stakeholder dialogue and focus on materiality. Significant improvement over previous reports in terms of scope and detail. I miss a materiality matrix, something I expect from a serial reporter, especially after I read that they have conducted broad-scale materiality workshops with key stakeholder groups. The Stakeholder Procurement Day is reported well and key stakeholder requirements defined for the supply chain as energy efficiency, conditions of work and waste management. These issues have indeed been well reported. I would have liked to know what issues were raised by stakeholders that Deutsche Telekom does not report on. But then, maybe I am just a little too demanding. This report is strong on stakeholder engagement. The short glossary for the uninitiated is welcome. Targets are clearly stated and range over a multi-year period, with interim progress made in 2007 reported, though in many cases "implementation underway" causes skeptics like me to believe that this really means "implementation is just about getting started".
Subtitled "Connected life and work", this is a mature report evidencing broad strategic thinking and presented in an intensive, business-like way. Professional and concise language. Not a report for the lay-reader who wants to have a relaxed read over a cup of coffee. This is a report for investors and people who understand the core issues, sector references and their significance. The opening statement by the Chairman states three material issues – climate change, IT inclusion and developing business solutions. Sections have a "spotlight" which drill down on a core issue, adding useful background and context. Most are in the form of an in-depth interview with a senior manager by an outside expert. Nice approach. The graphics in this report are low-key and boring, though I have to wonder what the connection to a couple making out on the grass on page 26-27 has to do with ICT.
All key indicators are bunched together at the back of the report. I prefer to see them in context and with some explanatory remarks. For example, SRI stock in Deutsche Telekom has decreased from 2.34% to 1.08% over a 3 year period. I wonder why. This remains unexplained. Another example: Deutsche Telekom record annual mileage for all country operations in 2007. No comparison to previous years, but the commentary admits that the numbers are higher as "mobility needs" have increased. Hungary comes in second with 51 million km (after USA with 62 million km) . They have a larger service fleet than any other operation. Why have "mobility needs" increased? What's so special about this market? Guess that Hungary ought to be doing a little more "digitization of business processes and replacing travel with modern communications media ", to quote DT Chairman on an issue of material importance.
There is "limited assurance on selected data" of this report. It's so limited and so select that it's not really assuring. The "we have not found anything that causes us to believe that this report has not been prepared in accordance with the GRI guidelines" is a real downer. I want to know if the data is accurate, if the right things have been reported and I don't want them to leave out huge chunks of data. Most environmental data in Germany has been verified, but nowhere else. This is about 50% of the total corporate impact. The assurance assignment states that it completed "inquiries of employees" but no sense of the scale and scope of those inquiries. Seems like a low-budget "get the plus" exercise to me. However, in fairness, this report is a significant step forward from previous reports, which were neither GRI application level indexed nor assured. And as ever, whenever something is first-time, it's far better than not at all.
1. Disclose stakeholder feedback more explicitly and include a materiality matrix. Include which issues were not addressed in the report.
2. Bite the bullet and assure properly
3. Explain the negative data
Elaine Cohen is the Joint CEO of BeyondBusiness Ltd, www.b-yond.biz, a leading CSR reporting and consulting firm in Israel, specializing in a wide range of consulting services for the development of social and environmental responsibility of businesses.