“Sustainability” – which can be defined in simple terms as ensuring that the needs of both current and future generations can be met – is a critical 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 privacy, how to deal with (fake) internet news, the changing world of work, or the transition to a low-carbon economy. Regulators have also increased their focus on the supply chains of products on offer in recent years. Companies can often have a material impact – both positively and negatively – on these issues. The reverse is also true, for example as a result of 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 today’s material 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.
In fiscal year 2021, the “Customer-related Matters and Product Responsibility” action area focused primarily on continuously enhancing customer satisfaction and on 5G. We continued the key groundwork for constructing Germany’s fourth mobile network, which will be based on innovative OpenRAN technology. Building our own, innovative network infrastructure also means that our digital responsibility is increasing. Our main goals in the “Corporate Digital Responsibility” action area were to ensure and promote digital inclusion. At the same time, data privacy and information security also played a major role. Activities in the “United Internet as an Employer” action area were dominated by the issues of recruiting and retaining young talent, and diversity and equal opportunities. For example, we came first in the annual “Best Place to Learn” awards and focused on systematically enhancing topics in the areas of gender equality and LGBTIQ+. We also held our first Diversity Days – a three-day conference featuring a mix of presentations, workshops, and discussions on this issue. In the “Climate and Environmental Protection” action area, we moved to expand our internal data capture operations and expand the use of renewable energies at our office locations. In addition, we focused on the analysis required by the EU Taxonomy. Our “United Internet as a Business Partner” action area addressed the growing interest in our supply and value chain(1), especially in light of the new German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz – LkSG). We continued expanding and enhancing our measures to implement due diligence requirements here.
(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 developed and documented the information required by the new EU Taxonomy Regulation in the course of preparing this sustainability report. Working together with all segments of the United Internet Group and with the assistance of an external consultancy, we carefully analyzed all relevant revenue, CapEx, and OpEx, and then classified and documented them as required by the Regulation.
In addition, we prepared in the reporting period for the implementation of the new due diligence requirements under the LkSG, which was passed by the Bundestag (the German Parliament) in June 2021 and whose provisions will apply at the United Internet Group from 2023 onwards. This was done on the basis of the National Action Plan for the Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“NAP”), and the first measures for this were presented. Among other things, these include process-driven preventive measures in our own operations and the implementation of a grievance procedure. United Internet will use this as a basis to determine new action areas in the coming year and will implement any new measures required.
The findings of a readiness assessment were also largely implemented for this report and the information required by the CSR-RUG flagged throughout.
We provide details of the process 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 reporting on risks linked to business relationships relates “in particular to the supply and subcontracting chains.”
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 customer satisfaction are so important to us. We use numerous initiatives to improve customer satisfaction, including new products and rate plans, transparency, and an even more powerful and comprehensive offering. This is why we are continuously expanding our fiber-optic network and product range, for example, and why we also enter into business combinations.
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 the digitalization process, and to ensure that this can be done safely. We build on our georedundant data centers to constantly extend data privacy 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
As an employer we also operate in a dynamic, fast-growing environment in which we aspire to be an innovator, and where we 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 all 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 around mutual support, respect, and embracing diversity, along with flat hierarchies that aid 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 at georedundant locations, in line with data privacy 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 for many years, and are implementing a wide range of efficiency improvement measures; in addition, we source renewable energy and only still offset non-renewable electricity in a few areas.
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. We aim to create value together with our business partners through strong, fair partnerships and to meet our due diligence obligations across the entire supply and value chain. The integrity of our business partners is extremely important for us – 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. A Code of Conduct for Business Partners ensures this is the case.
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. What is more, our partnerships with AfB gGmbH and GDW are proof of our commitment to inclusion.
We refer to the UN SDGs where appropriate in a number of places in this report. The SDGs comprise 17 objectives for sustainable development that 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.
We have identified points of reference for the individual action areas and topics so as to develop goals and measures, and achieve progress.
SUSTAINABILITY STRATEGY AND MANAGEMENT
Update materiality analysis
Adopt systematic approach to data capture for sustainability reporting
CUSTOMER-RELATED MATTERS/PRODUCT RESPONSIBILITY
Intensify and permanently strengthen cross-functional cooperation
CORPORATE DIGITAL RESPONSIBILITY
Raise our Corporate Digital Responsibility profile
Enhance and extend our information security management system
Enhance the security measures in our internal IT service
UNITED INTERNET AS AN EMPLOYER
Enhance our road map to increase our Group-wide quota for women in the two top management levels below United Internet AG to above 18%
Expand our policy for managing and promoting diversity
Standardize monitoring of our training measures
Expand our health program
CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Calculate our carbon footprint
Implement additional energy efficiency measures
Reduce carbon emissions from fuel consumption
Identify additional potential electricity and materials savings
UNITED INTERNET AS A BUSINESS PARTNER
Map our supply/value chain
(1) Please see the relevant chapters or sections for further information.
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 nonfinancial 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 consolidated nonfinancial report (“nonfinancial statement”) to establish whether it complies with the law, and is due and proper and appropriate.
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.
See the Annual Report and the United Internet website.
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 held a separate dialog with selected stakeholders on 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.