The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Case study: How BT promotes ethical business conduct

BT provides communications services solutions to customers in more than 180 countries, creating value for stakeholders by developing and selling products and services that are an essential part of modern life. Doing business ethically, while creating an open culture where people can raise concerns without fear of retaliation is, thus, a top priority.

This case study is based on the 2018/19 Digital impact and sustainability report by BT published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Working ethically is highly important for BT, its customers, suppliers and shareholders.  Tweet This! Thus, everyone at BT is expected to follow the ethics code, which sets out BT’s expectations, to help its people make the right decisions. In order to promote ethical business conduct BT took action to:
  • implement an ethics code
  • build awareness
  • fight bribery and corruption
  • provide employees with a confidential Speak Up hotline
  • act on improper behaviour

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2018/19 Digital impact and sustainability report BT identified a range of material issues, such as data/cyber security, network investment and innovation, climate change, customer experience, human/digital rights. Among these, promoting ethical business conduct stands out as a key material issue for BT.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups BT engages with:

Stakeholder Group
Consumers
Employees
Suppliers
Socially responsible investors
Mainstream investors
Governments & regulators

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics BT engaged with its stakeholders through day-to-day interactions by phone or in meetings, online discussion forums and focus groups.

What actions were taken by BT to promote ethical business conduct?

In its 2018/19 Digital impact and sustainability report BT reports that it took the following actions for promoting ethical business conduct:

  • Implementing an ethics code
  • BT’s ethics code sets out its expectations, to help its people make the right decisions. The ethics code is designed to be clear, simple and accessible, and explains how things are done at BT, how everyone works, how BT’s people treat each other and how everyone is expected to behave. It applies to everyone who works for, with, or on behalf of BT, anywhere in the world.
  • Building awareness
  • Everyone working at BT must complete annual training on BT’s ethics code, and 99.7% of its people did so in 2018-19. BT promoted the code as part of the launch of The BT Way, with leader videos, quizzes and news stories, and also encourages its leaders to lead by example and promote doing the right thing to their teams. Additionally, BT measures how engaged its people are on ethical issues as part of its employee survey, Your Say. In 2018-19 BT added seven new questions on ethics, in addition to the four already in the survey. In the latest survey, 86% agreed or strongly agreed that BT does business ethically, up from 83% the year before.
  • Fighting bribery and corruption
  • BT does not tolerate bribery or corruption in any form. BT’s anti-corruption and bribery policy makes this clear, and BT reinforces this message through mandatory annual training on its ethics code. BT also provides further training on anti-corruption to people working in higher-risk roles or environments. In 2018-19, over 27,000 of its people completed that additional training.
  • Providing employees with a confidential Speak Up hotline
  • If anyone is worried about an ethical issue, BT wants them to feel safe and confident to report it. Thus, in 2018-19, BT launched a new web page called Tell Us. This is a one-stop-shop with everything BT’s people need to know about how to report a concern or ask for help. They can report their concerns through BT’s confidential Speak Up hotline, anonymously if they prefer (subject to local laws). The hotline is also open to contractors and suppliers and, in 2018-19, 525 concerns were raised, approximately 9% more than in the previous year.
  • Acting on improper behaviour
  • In 2018-19 BT investigated concerns and took further action on 29% of the cases it closed, including disciplinary action, coaching or training, and improvements to its policies or procedures. The rest were unsubstantiated, duplications, follow-ups of existing cases, or redirected to more appropriate reporting channels. BT disciplined 231 employees as a result of ethical misconduct in 2018-19, and 98 left the company. The most common issue related to company vehicles, such as the unauthorised use of vans outside of company hours.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standards addressed in this case are:

1) Disclosure 205-1 Operations assessed for risks related to corruption

2) Disclosure 205-2 Communication and training about anti-corruption policies and procedures

3) Disclosure 205-3 Confirmed incidents of corruption and actions taken

4) Disclosure 419-1 Non-compliance with laws and regulations in the social and economic area

 

Disclosure 205-1 Operations assessed for risks related to corruption corresponds to:

  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Business theme: Anti-corruption

Disclosure 205-2 Communication and training about anti-corruption policies and procedures corresponds to:

  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Business theme: Anti-corruption

Disclosure 205-3 Confirmed incidents of corruption and actions taken corresponds to:

  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Business theme: Anti-corruption

Disclosure 419-1 Non-compliance with laws and regulations in the social and economic area corresponds to:

  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Business theme: Compliance with laws and regulations

 

80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.



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References:

1) This case study is based on published information by BT, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:

http://database.globalreporting.org/

2) https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/

Note to BT: With each case study we send out an email requesting a comment on this case study. If you have not received such an email please contact us.

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