Sustainability Strategy and Management


Definition of Sustainability

“Sustainability” – which can be defined in simple terms as ensuring that the needs of both current and future generations can be met – is a core issue facing society, politics, and business. Associated social developments and “megatrends” such as digitalization and climate change, and the transformation processes these are causing are being discussed across all sectors, be it in connection with data protection, how to deal with (fake) internet news, the changing world of work, or the transition to a low-carbon economy. Companies often have a material impact on these topics – both positively and negatively. Conversely, these issues also influence businesses, e.g., due to changes in society’s expectations (such as those triggered by the Fridays for Future movement), consumer and customer wishes, regulatory requirements, and increasing investor awareness of ESG aspects. This report shows how these and other sustainability topics relate to United Internet and how the Company deals with the resulting challenges and opportunities.

Our sustainability strategy and sustainability management activities are designed to address material current sustainability topics, challenges, and opportunities – in other words, the relevant impacts that our Company has on our stakeholders, the environment, and society, and the impacts that the environment and society has on it. We ensure this is in fact the case by basing the action areas for our sustainability strategy on a materiality analysis.

New Developments

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A stakeholder survey was performed in 2016 as input for United Internet’s first sustainability report in 2018. In 2019, the results were supplemented by comprehensive analysis of the current sustainability requirements placed on us by the capital markets, and the regulatory framework and initiatives. To meet these expectations, the departments involved started assessing their content in fiscal year 2020. The initial insights from this have been included in the chapters making up this sustainability report.

The action areas were modified slightly on the basis of the analysis performed in 2019, and the findings are presented in the various chapters. For example, in our “Climate and Environmental Protection” action area, we put an even greater focus on energy, emissions, and the climate in view of these topics’ growing relevance. Additionally, we included data protection and information security in our “Corporate Digital Responsibility” action area, which also covers topics such as access to digitalization, data control and sovereignty, and digital literacy. We addressed the growing interest in our supply and value chain in our “United Internet as a Business Partner” action area (1).

(1) Our supply and value chain presents the activities and actors involved in developing, producing, distributing, delivering, and providing support for a product or service. Generally speaking, this is not a linear process as suggested by the image of a chain, but rather a complex network of actors and suppliers who are themselves interconnected. Nevertheless, we mainly use the term “value chain” in the following for reasons of simplicity.

We worked to expand our employee-related KPIs in fiscal year 2020, both to meet our own goal of having data that is as comprehensive as possible and so as to comply with the update to GRI 304. Please see the chapter entitled “United Internet as an Employer” for further details.

Materiality Analysis: Topics and Action Areas

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We provide details of the processes we use to determine our material topics, including our definition of materiality, the criteria examined, and our materiality matrix in the section entitled “About This Report.”

We used the results of our materiality analysis to continuously enhance the topics within our sustainability action areas, and to determine where their impacts arise and what areas of United Internet offer suitable starting points for their management. In line with the CSR-RUG, we perform a risk assessment of these aspects with respect to our own business activities, our products and services, and our business relationships(1). The following overview provides supplementary information on how the topics relate to the aspects contained in the CSR-RUG. The action areas are reflected in the structure of the report.

(1) German Accounting Standard (GAS) 20 specifies that business relationships must relate “in particular to the supply and subcontracting chains.”

Material Sustainability Topics and Identification of Action Areas

Sustainability Strategy: Action Areas and Goals

Action Areas

We identified the following action areas by combining the material topics with the United Internet Group’s structures and activities:

Customer-related Matters and Product Responsibility

Customer demands in relation to internet access and applications are increasing all the time, and we can only hope to persuade customers to stay loyal to our products and hence to us in the long term if they are satisfied. This is why customer feedback and satisfaction are particularly critical for us: we focus on our customers in everything we think and do, and aim to provide compelling products and services. We use numerous initiatives to improve our customer satisfaction, including new products and tariffs, transparency, and an even more powerful and comprehensive offering. This is also why we are continuously expanding our fiber-optic network and product range, for example, and entering into business combinations such as those with Strato AG and the (then) Drillisch AG in 2017.

Corporate Digital Responsibility

As digitalization gathers pace, so do both the opportunities and risks for users, such as improved, customized services on the one hand and the danger of data theft and vulnerabilities on the other. We aim to enable society to participate in digitalization, and to ensure that this is done safely. We build on our geo-redundant data centers to constantly extend data protection and information security on the internet. In addition, we offer users tangible added value made in Germany in the form of innovations such as netID (the European log-in standard) and our “intelligent mailbox.”

United Internet as an Employer

Equally, we operate in a dynamic, fast-growing, and highly innovative environment in our role as an employer, and face a highly competitive market for specialists. We aim to be a fair and attractive employer and to help our employees grow. To do this, we want to create a working environment that enables each and every one of our staff to contribute what they know and to take advantage of development opportunities and the freedoms they have in their work. Our corporate culture is built on mutual support and flat hierarchies that facilitate fast decision-making.

Climate and Environmental Protection

As an internet specialist, our offering revolves around our network infrastructure and our data centers. The latter are responsible for by far the bulk of energy used within the Group, especially since they are operated geo-redundantly, in line with data protection and information security requirements. This energy usage and the resulting carbon emissions impact the environment and the climate. We therefore aim to use resources efficiently and to contribute to climate protection. We have been investing in sustainable energy usage in key areas since 2007, and are implementing a wide range of efficiency improving measures; in addition, we source renewable energy and offset non-renewable electricity.

United Internet as a Business Partner

As a telecommunications and internet provider, we work with a large number of business partners. These include network service and IT hardware providers, and sales and shipping partners, among others. We aim to create value together with our business partners through strong, fair partnerships. The integrity of our business partners is extremely important for us – it is necessary both to avoid risks that could result from business relationships and to establish the trust that is needed for long-term business relationships and for taking responsibility together. This is why we have drawn up a Code of Conduct for Business Partners.

Our Social Commitment

Business success is only possible in a functioning society. We are part of society and are committed to helping ensure its stability and ability to meet future challenges. This is why our United Internet for UNICEF foundation supports United Nations Children's Fund projects across the world. In addition, our “1&1 Together” program and volunteer members of staff worked hard over the last five years to integrate refugees on the labor market and within the Company. What is more, our partnerships with AfB gGmbH and GDW are proof of our commitment to inclusion. Our “IONOS CARES” initiative donated PCs to a college in the Philippines to help provide high-quality education. We also provided our employees in the Philippines with “Care Packages” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Relevance to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

We refer to the UN SDGs where appropriate in a number of places in this report. The 17 SDGs aim to end poverty, protect the Earth, and ensure prosperity for all. They were resolved in 2015 by the United Nations (UN) member states, with the goal being to implement them by 2030. We use the SDG symbols to indicate the action areas in which we can contribute the most to reaching specific SDGs. United Internet’s sustainability strategy focuses on SDGs 8, 9, 12, and 13. We also refer to additional SDGs and how we contribute to them in the individual chapters.

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Enhancements to the Action Areas

We have identified starting points for the individual action areas and topics, so as to develop goals and measures, and achieve progress.

In some action areas, e.g., for “United Internet as a Business Partner,” we need first of all to draw up a comprehensive overview of the status quo. Our first step here aims to map our supply and value chain – including the relevant actors and topics – as comprehensively as possible. The results are also included in the “Climate and Environmental Protection” action area, where we aim to calculate our carbon footprint (also known as a “CO2 footprint” or “greenhouse gas footprint”), an area in which emissions along the value chain play a key role. We then aim to use these analyses to identify substantive steps that need to be taken. In addition, the project to update our materiality analysis and sustainability strategy that is planned for 2021 will influence how the action areas develop in future. The following table shows additional goals and measures:





Update materiality analysis and sustainability strategy


In preparation

Adopt systematic approach to data capture for sustainability reporting




Intensify and permanently strengthen cross-functional cooperation




Raise our Corporate Digital Responsibility profile

2020 onwards


Enhance and extend our information security management system



Enhance the security measures in our internal IT service





Implement our road map to achieve our target quota of 18% women in the organization’s top two management levels



Expand our policy for managing and promoting diversity



Professional development:

Standardize monitoring of our training measures



Health management:

Expand our health program




Calculate our carbon footprint

2020 onwards

In preparation

Implement additional energy efficiency measures



Reduce carbon emissions from fuel consumption



Identify additional potential electricity and materials savings




Map our supply/value chain

2020 onwards

In preparation

(1) Please see the relevant chapters or sections for further information.

Sustainability Management

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Organization of Sustainability Management

Sustainability management throughout the United Internet Group is coordinated by a team from the Compliance & Sustainability department. The tasks involved include strategic development, reporting, and answering ESG rating agency queries, along with ensuring and optimizing the quality of the data needed for this. The Sustainability Team liaises with core functions and relevant units in the segments, and supports these in assessing non-financial topics in their various business activities, providing information, and ensuring that the entire Group complies with its business responsibilities.

The Sustainability Team reports to United Internet AG’s CFO, who is also responsible for preparing the sustainability report. In addition, the Company’s Management Board addresses current sustainability-related topics and decisions in the course of the fiscal year. United Internet’s Supervisory Board discharges its responsibility of oversight by independently examining the sustainability report (“non-financial statement”) for compliance with the law, propriety, and appropriateness.

Stakeholder Dialog

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Our ability to do business depends on our successful cooperation with a wide range of stakeholders. We liaise with these groups using a variety of different platforms and formats, with the aims of reinforcing communication and cooperation, and taking our stakeholders’ interests into account.

  • Customers: We focus consistently on customer needs and satisfaction. We collect feedback in numerous areas and liaise with customers via surveys and during service calls, among other things. Test users and test buyers provide valuable feedback on new products.

  • Investors: Investors are a key stakeholder group for United Internet. Our Investor Relations department and our Management Board are in regular contact with them in the form of one-on-one discussions and road shows. We repay investors’ trust in us by ensuring open, transparent reporting.

    See the Annual Report and the United Internet website.

  • Employees: Our employees are the key to our success. Only by leveraging their knowledge, skills, and dedication can we continue to develop and to achieve long-term success. Employee feedback is important for us, which is why we regularly perform employee surveys, identify measures to be taken from these, and inform staff of the progress made. In addition, the Management Board is in regular direct contact with employees, e.g., in the course of internal roadshows and “Ask the Board” events, which were held virtually in 2020.

  • Business partners: Our business requires us to work together with a large number of business partners and suppliers. This includes wholesale service partners, hardware suppliers, call center service providers, and shipping partners, for example. Among other things, we conduct one-on-one discussions with these partners and help call center service providers to train their employees.

  • Politicians and associations: We aim to maintain a dialog with political decision-makers and government authorities so as to create a framework for a successful digital economy in Germany. One particular issue for us is ensuring competition, which acts as a driver for innovation, investments, and consumer benefits. This is why we are a member of associations such as VATM(1), Bitkom(2), BREKO(3), the BVDW(4), and eco(5). In addition, specialist departments are active in relevant associations and bodies.

  • Non-governmental organizations: Our United Internet for UNICEF foundation has worked with the United Nations’ Children’s Fund for around 15 years now to collect donations and recruit new sustaining members.

  • Local communities: We welcome dialog with local communities and the population at large at our locations. Since we are an internet and telecommunications provider, our operating locations do not have a significant impact. On the contrary: We create jobs outside major German cities at locations such as Montabaur or Zweibrücken.

In addition, our stakeholders’ opinions and decisions are a key factor both in shaping our sustainability management activities and in determining what goes into our sustainability report. We have held a separate dialog with selected stakeholders for this.

(1) Verband der Anbieter von Telekommunikations- und Mehrwertdiensten e. V.

(2) Bundesverband Informationswirtschaft, Telekommunikation und neue Medien e. V.

(3) Bundesverband Breitbandkommunikation e. V.

(4) Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) e. V.

(5) Verband der Internetwirtschaft e. V.