It’s good to talk CR

Phone company T-Mobile has been engaged with corporate responsibility initiatives for years. They just haven't told anybody what they've been up to

In August, Allison Murray became the first ever appointed corporate responsibility manager for T-Mobile, the global mobile phone company. With a background in the IT sector, she jumped at the chance of returning to a technology-based industry, following three years with logistics firm DHL. And now she is tasked with bringing all of the good work that T-Mobile is doing under one umbrella, and shouting about it.

Here, Allison tells us how she plans to promote T-Mobile as a “responsible business”, and highlights some of the key initiatives that will help her achieve this goal.

My background is in the IT sector.

Working for DHL was a bit of a departure from that but it was really good for me to get to know a different industry, especially in logistics. Supply chain issues are important for any business, so I’ve been able to apply my learning to new roles.

I jumped at the chance to work for T-Mobile

I was starting to look around for opportunities to go back into the IT sector. So the opportunity came up at T-Mobile and I jumped at it.

The UK is one of the more advanced countries in corporate responsibility thinking.

Some companies are only just starting to think about community impacts. In the UK, it’s definitely more evolved.

Corporate responsibility is about managing risk.
It’s about looking at who has a stake in your business and what their expectations are.

The technology industry brings new opportunities.
It’s a fast-paced industry in terms of innovation. That brings with it new opportunities for looking at how products and services can have environmental and social benefits. That’s really interesting.

You probably aren’t aware of the good work T-Mobile has been doing.

That’s a big part of my role. There hasn’t been a lot of external communication about what’s been going on at T-Mobile.

We have a really long history of corporate responsibility.

We have a good track record in phone recycling, energy efficiency of our network, and child safety and protection. All the various managers within the business who are responsible for those streams have been really busy just getting the work done. But our customers don’t necessarily know the extent of the work we have been doing. Increasingly, our customers are looking for products to help them manage their own environmental impacts.

That’s definitely a change within the UK in the past year. We are really seeing consumer-focused interest in environmental issues. With the rise in understanding of climate change and CO2 impacts, people are becoming more aware of their own impacts.

We are not starting from scratch.

A lot of companies have begun the journey of corporate responsibility by developing a programme. So they employ an environment manager and go that route.

What’s different with T-Mobile is that a lot of the activities have been going on for a number of years.

So we are not starting from scratch at all. My job is to see what we have in place, how our programmes compare to best practice, how we are performing and where we have gaps.

We’ve just revised our mobile phone recycling programme.

We’ve put a free post bag in every new mobile phone box. Instead of having to ask for a bag or order one, people pop [their old phone] in the bag and send it off by freepost. It gets sent to Fonebak, who are our partner on the project and they do all the processing and data wiping.

We really, really don’t want people to put their phone in the bin.

The majority of phones can be reused very easily. They just need to be cleaned up. Old mobile phones either get broken down and recycled, or they get refreshed and sold in emerging markets.

We are engaged with the industry as a whole in considering sustainability issues.

T-Mobile is part of The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), a network of technology companies, including the handset manufacturers, who work together on sustainability initiatives. There are a number of different work streams, one of which is a supply chain initiative. We have been developing a common system to audit and verify suppliers, so instead of every single company asking for forms to be filled out so many times, there’s just one system. A lot of companies have the same suppliers.

T-Mobile’s culture is very open.

People have been very open to collaboration. Our corporate values, one of which is about being open, are really integrated into our system of working. It’s a great environment to work in.

Producing a CR report is definitely one of our goals.

We are looking at producing one possibly next year, and I have no idea what format that’s going to take at the moment. It’s important for us to start talking about our track record on this and the stuff people aren’t aware of.

We are the first company in the world to achieve PAS 99.

The PAS 99 standard is a combined health, safety and environment management system, and we achieved that in the past year. That’s something we are really proud of.

Community volunteering is very important.

We launched a big programme last October focused on encouraging young people to make a positive difference in their communities through volunteering. The funds that we provide are matched by v, an organisation that was set up by the government following the Russell Commission. It is dedicated to creating a million new volunteering opportunities for young people aged 16-24.

We give every employee two paid days a year for volunteering.

TimeBank is running our employee volunteering scheme, identifying local organisations around our offices and sites. Employees can take their two days any way they want – half days, full days, or hourly slots.

Employees can suggest their own ideas for volunteering. If they want to coach football, then TimeBank will do their best to find an opportunity. Or it could be using your business skills, for example somebody may work in HR and be good at CV-writing or interview skills. That’s a business skill they could provide to young people.

10% of T-Mobile staff are volunteering.

The programme was launched in October 2006. We had around 1.5% of our employees taking up volunteering by January. It’s now jumped to 10%. Most companies usually get around 2% uptake.

Our steering group will provide our future CR direction.

In order to manage corporate responsibility across the business, we are setting up a steering group that will be setting the agenda for the coming years. It will be at senior level and it will be making decisions on what we need to be focusing our efforts on.

It’s important people understand the company as a whole.

I want people internally and externally to know about our track record. They already know about our price plans and the services we offer to customers, but they may not be aware of T-Mobile as a business and what we do internally as an organisation.

Our biggest environmental impact is in our network.

We are focusing our efforts on energy consumption and have rolled out a number of different initiatives, looking at things like smart meters, changing the temperature at which our sites are run at, and so on. We found that by changing the temperature very slightly by just two or three degrees, we can get significant savings and the equipment works just fine.

At the moment we are provided by 10% renewable energy and 90% combined heat and power.

We won’t be creating a big CR department.

We won’t have a separate department that sits off to one side and sort of does CR. One of the great things about T-Mobile is that it’s already integrated into the business. We’ve kind of done the reverse. It’s already integrated, but we just need someone to pull it all together to say, definitively: “T-Mobile is a responsible business because it has X, Y and Z in place.”

T-Mobile has been doing CR work for years. They just didn’t call it CR.

My big task has been an internal communications one. We recently held planned a CR expo at our head office in Hatfield. We had stands from the procurement team, facilities, health and safety, child safety, community investment programme. We sent an open invitation for everybody to come to the event. It was an eye-opener for people. They might have been working in facilities manager, and they really didn’t know that down the hallway there was a team working on child safety issues.

Employees are a major stakeholder in the business.

They need to know what is going on within the business. Corporate responsibility is as much of an internal message as an external message.

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