Materiality, Impact, and Risks
Customers trust us with their data for more than 65 million accounts. It goes without saying that this data must be protected, and its security ensured, if customers are to use our services. In line with this, guaranteeing strict security and systematically preventing unauthorized access to customer data are part of our DNA.
The growing process of digitalization brings more than just the risks that we protect customer data and our own data and information from: it also offers new opportunities (e.g., for product development) that we, as an internet and telecommunications company, aim to exploit.
We aim to enable society to participate in digitalization, and to ensure that this is done safely.
Digitalization is transforming both the economy and society. Currently countless initiatives, conferences, studies, and charters addressing the framework for digital transformation are being produced at the political, civil society, and business levels. Many different instances stress the need for everyone to be able to participate in digitalization. In addition, members of society need enhanced digital literacy skills if they are to engage with the new opportunities independently and responsibly. The internet and digitalization also play a key role in respect for human rights. After all, topics such as freedom of opinion and information, privacy, and the right to participate in cultural life are now inextricably linked with the digital arena.
In the political sphere, digitalization is often discussed as a means of enabling sustainability and achieving climate goals – one that can play a decisive role in implementing climate protection measures. The links between the two areas can be seen, among other things, from the fact that they were examined together during Germany’s presidency of the EU Council in the 2020 reporting period, along with the COVID-19 pandemic. The infrastructure provided by the information and communications sector, and particularly data centers, are essential for this sustainability-oriented digitalization process.
For the United Internet Group as an internet and telecommunications company, the ability to leverage the opportunities offered by digitalization in the form of new products and processes for its own benefit and that of its customers is a critical success factor. This creates new challenges that the Company needs to address – especially with regard to data and information security. Our heavy focus on Corporate Digital Responsibility – the motivation for numerous measures we are taking – aims to ensure we meet our responsibility to protect customer data and address the process of digital transformation with all its new opportunities and risks.
We aim to enable society to participate in the digitalization process, and to ensure that this is done safely. Data protection and information security at our Group are aligned in all cases with the current requirements of, and strict standards applicable in, European and German data protection, which are fundamental to our business success. Closely related topics include data sovereignty and digital literacy for our customers, but naturally for our employees as well.
Due to the importance and multifaceted nature of this topic, responsibility for it has been assigned to a number of different management board members. Generally speaking, it is the preserve of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Chief Information Officer (CIO), or Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) of the segments, who report directly to the CEO of United Internet AG or the company concerned.
The numerous measures, systems, and goals in the Corporate Digital Responsibility area are described in more detail in the following sections.
A wide range of KPIs relevant to the specific areas concerned are used to monitor success. Further details can be found in the following sections.
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
“As a successful provider of internet services and infrastructure, we take our digital responsibility extremely seriously”
United Internet AG’s CFO, Martin Mildner, discusses digital responsibility with the CEOs of 1&1 IONOS SE, Achim Weiss, and 1&1 Mail & Media Applications SE, Jan Oetjen. This interview gives insights into what digitalization and a responsible approach mean for United Internet AG, what the associated core issues for the Company are, and where its digital transformation process is heading.
United Internet AG does business in a number of different areas using a variety of brands. What are the core issues relating to digitalization and digital responsibility in each case?
Martin Mildner: Let’s start with the Access Division. We are a leading virtual network operator and our strong brands – 1&1, yourfone, and smartmobil.de – offer mobile internet access to more than ten million customers. What’s more, as the largest provider of alternative DSL connections, we provide roughly four million households with attractive broadband products. 1&1 Versatel also operates one of Germany’s largest fiber-optic networks. And with our goal of building our own 5G network in particular, we are aiming not just to drive forward digitalization within Germany but also to actively shape it.
Jan Oetjen: Our work and product development in the Consumer Applications Segment are also clearly focused on our customers. Our GMX and WEB.DE brands have established us as a leading provider of e-mail services in Germany in recent years, with a market share of around 50%. We also aim to help our youngest users get ready for the digital world and to protect them from potential risks online, which is why youth protection is a top priority for us. In addition, our work as a freely accessible and established source of news is based on clear guidelines, ensuring transparency about our journalistic approach. We also develop our own software solutions to stay abreast of the latest trends.
Achim Weiss: Our Business Applications Segment offers customers a broad range of hosting and cloud business products under well-known international brands such as IONOS, STRATO, Arsys, or Fasthosts. We provide companies, self-employed professionals, private individuals, consumers, and the public sector all the services they need for successful cloud computing – from domains through classic websites and online marketing tools down to full-scale servers and an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) solution. IONOS developed an ESG strategy in fiscal year 2020, in which Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR) plays a key role. This is founded on our goal of meeting the highest possible security and data protection standards, and at the same time to put users at the heart of our digital solutions.
As you say, data protection and information security are key aspects of digital responsibility. What is the United Internet Group doing in this area?
Jan Oetjen: Our goals throughout are fairness and transparency. For example, our “E-mail made in Germany” and “Cloud made in Germany” initiatives offer the highest possible security in the Applications divisions. Together, the two services represent the largest European e-mail platform with an integrated cloud solution that fully complies with German and European data protection requirements. In addition, GMX and WEB.DE cofounded the European netID Foundation, whose single sign-on solution provides a secure European solution to US providers. This gives our users easy access to the digital world.
Achim Weiss: Right from the start, IONOS has been one of the driving forces behind GAIA-X – a European cloud project sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) that aims to increase digital sovereignty in Europe. We are contributing our many years of experience in developing and operating cloud infrastructures to this initiative. In addition, the introduction of our personal consultant concept, which allows our customers to enjoy the highest possible standards of service, adds a personal component to our digital solutions. This strengthens our customers’ trust in us and our products.
Jan Oetjen: It goes without saying that we both want and need to keep on enhancing our performance all the time. Proof that this dedicated approach is the right one and that our customers trust us comes from the Consumer Applications Segment, for example, which has more than 42 million active customer accounts and very high levels of customer satisfaction. We also receive positive feedback from our customer surveys, along with extremely good star ratings in apps and ServiceValue awards for customer trust and customer satisfaction.
Achim Weiss: In addition, IONOS’s customer service organization was “Voted Customer Service of the Year 2021.” This customer satisfaction also extends beyond Germany, as can be seen from the awards we have won in Spain and France.
Where is the road leading in the next few years? What are going to be the key issues?
Martin Mildner: One clear focus is naturally on our plans to build Germany’s most modern mobile network – this will be fully virtualized and based on OpenRAN technology. As Germany’s fourth network operator, we aim to make a major contribution to digitalization.
Jan Oetjen: We intend to continue setting standards for digitalization as one of Europe’s largest e-mail platform providers. Together with Deutsche Post, we have started digitalizing the German letter mail delivery market with our advance e-mail notifications for letters. We want to steadily expand this offering in the coming years with the goal of using the opportunities offered by digitalization to permanently change how letters are sent. This also shows how we take responsibility, especially towards the environment: large volumes of CO2emissionscan be saved by reducing mail transports, and we also aim to significantly reduce paper consumption in this way.
Achim Weiss: We have significantly extended our market coverage in recent years as part of the internationalization of our hosting and cloud business, thanks to support from our “local heroes” and market leaders such as home.pl in Poland, Arsys in Spain, and World4you in Austria. We aim to continue this trend. It’s also clear that, as digitalization gains ground, the challenges relating to the digital infrastructure and energy requirements are becoming more urgent. This means that data center efficiency will play an increasingly central role. Many of our data centers are already climate-neutral. We are currently building a new solar-powered data center in the United Kingdom, which is expected to start operations in 2022. To help our customers transition smoothly to the digital world, we recently added a “Do-it-for-me” service to our personal consultant Offering. This covers both providing the technical components needed for a website and even creating the website itself. We are aiming to expand this service further so as to maintain and continuously increase customer satisfaction.
Martin Mildner: Digitalization is at the heart of everything we do at United Internet AG. While the Group’s operating companies focus on products and customer-facing services, the task at Group level is to create the necessary structures and optimize our processes so that we can succeed together. More than ever, our goal is to live up to all aspects of our digital responsibility as an internet company, to drive forward innovations with confidence, and hence to offer our customers the best possible products.