A trio of top-tier European operators provided updates on initiatives advancing their respective corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes in recent weeks, highlighting such schemes are now firmly established as a key element in broader connectivity and business strategies.

Vodafone Group, Deutsche Telekom and Telia each publicised different tacks being taken to achieve CSR goals, albeit with some common ground around inclusivity, promoting diversity and even underpinning basic democratic rights.

The democracy angle was central to Deutsche Telekom’s update, timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the signing of the German Basic Law on 23 May 1949, which set stringent rules regarding democracy and freedom which remain a key pillar of the nation’s governance to this day.

Deutsche Telekom used the anniversary to call for greater efforts to promote “democratic values and stand up against hate, racism and extremism”, arguing human dignity should “also be inviolable in the digital world” at a time when many online interactions are “increasingly influenced by hate and incendiary language”.

The operator stated this as it unveiled an overhaul of domestic advertising to promote democracy, in particular the European Parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in June.

It argued the right to human dignity and physical integrity are of high importance at a time when studies show a rise in online threats, insults and confrontation, with younger people experiencing these the most frequently.

Deutsche Telekom also cited the Hate Speech Forsa-Study 2023, in which 25 per cent of respondents said they had taken a stand against hate speech.

“Being confident in advocating for tolerance, acceptance or more justice can really help. Not only does each and every comment that speaks up against hate, incendiary language and exclusion lend strength to those affected, it also sends a signal to those reading on in silence”, Deutsche Telekom argued.

Mind the gap
Vodafone, meanwhile, zeroed in on the positives of connectivity as it emphasised a need to continue expanding the reach of networks for social good.

In an update on its pillars of a sustainable business policy, the operator highlighted a strategy of connecting “everyone, regardless of who they are or where they live and work”.

Vodafone argued connectivity is key to ensuring consumers and businesses can reap the full benefits of a digital society, though acknowledged this must involve ensuring tariffs and devices are affordable.

The benefits include helping SMEs to “thrive in a digital world”, along with boosting financial inclusion and the digitalisation of public services. Vodafone also highlighted the importance of ensuring whole communities are able to get online, with a US Marine Corp-like commitment to ensure no-one is left behind.

But the operator also highlighted the importance of education in its efforts, noting work to improve digital skills.

It is an aspect which many in the industry are beginning to recognise, with a group of AI experts recently pointing to the need for training to help people fully reap the benefits of this technology.

Vodafone noted security is essential in persuading consumers and businesses to trust digital services, with its work in this area covering data protection and “responsible business practices”.

“Wherever we are, we have an opportunity to advance fundamental rights for our customers, colleagues and communities,” it stated, citing a “right to privacy” for people around the world, which it achieves by making protection of its networks and systems a priority.

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The operator backed up its commitments with an ongoing focus on rural deployments in the UK. In the past fortnight it revealed it installed its 250th 4G mast as part of the nation’s Shared Rural Network initiative, along with a pledge to begin deploying standalone 5G in the countryside of Northern Ireland.

Elsewhere, it emphasised sustainability efforts, using 70 humidity and temperature sensors to create digital twins of trees in Germany in an effort to protect them from heat and drought. Vodafone is also working to bolster its mobile network in the nation ahead of the UEFA Euro 2024 football contest in June, and highlighted its role in prioritising inclusion and equality as part of the country’s annual Diversity Day, held on 21 May.

Taking pride
Telia opted to promote Global Telco Pride 2024, the third edition of a virtual celebration arranged in conjunction with Ericsson, Nokia, Telenor, Tele2, 3 Sweden, Telefonica and Orange which highlights a broad industry commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion.

Scheduled for 18 June, the online event bills itself as “focusing on crucial topics like Transgender visibility and allyship” and presenting a united front “for LGBTIQ+ rights and non-discrimination”.

Telia stated the collaboration of what are usually rivals “reflects the values that define us as an industry dedicated to connecting people”. It emphasised inclusivity is important for business, with a diverse workforce delivering a better understanding of customers and boosting innovation.

Much like Vodafone, the Sweden-based operator highlighted its commitments around governance policies to prevent discrimination, education to tackle unconscious bias and providing support networks for staff.

Telia emphasised its pledges go beyond internal operations, with work to tackle discrimination in society and promote LGBTIQ+ rights.