The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Home / case studies / Case study: How Vodafone responds to customer and public concerns about mobiles, masts and public health

Case study: How Vodafone responds to customer and public concerns about mobiles, masts and public health

As one of the world’s largest mobile telecommunications companies, the trust of its customers and other stakeholders, especially in matters of public health, is of vital significance for Vodafone and for the value of its brand.

This case study is based on the 2014/2015 Sustainability Report by Vodafone published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate that CSR/ sustainability reporting done responsibly is achieved by identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment and stakeholders and by measuring, managing and changing. 

Layout 1Abstract

As a global leader in mobile telecommunications and mobile technology over the past 30 years, the health and safety of Vodafone’s customers and the public is a key priority. In order to respond to customer and public concerns about mobiles, masts and public health Vodafone took action to:

  • make sure its mobiles and masts operate well within the guidelines set by the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)
  • form a board dedicated to radiofrequency (RF) matters
  • monitor electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions and ensure that all parts of its business adhere to strict industry-wide standards on the electromagnetic radiation created by mobile devices and masts and
  • fund independent EMF research into the priority areas identified by the World Health Organization

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2014/2015 Sustainability Report Vodafone identified a number of material issues, such as transformational and low carbon solutions, privacy and security, human rights, ethics. Among these, earning and retaining the trust of  its customers and other stakeholders by responding to public concerns about mobiles, masts and public health stands out as a key priority for Vodafone as a global  leader in mobile telecommunications with 446 million customers in 26 countries.

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 organization should identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations.”

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 Vodafone engages with:

Stakeholder Group Method of engagement
Opinion

formers and

experts

·     Consultations with experts on a wide range of issues to gain feedback on sustainability practices, priorities and challenges

 

Non-

governmental

organisations

(NGOs)

·     Face-to-face meetings

·     Meeting representatives at relevant events

 

Enterprise

customers

·     Working with enterprise customers to help them achieve their sustainability objectives
Consumers ·     Communicating through retail outlets, contact centres and customer research
Industry ·     Participation in industry forums on sustainability issues
Communities ·     Consulting local people to help Vodafone understand and address their concerns about the deployment of its network in their communities
Governments

and regulators

·     Engaging with governments and regulators on a wide range of issues relevant to Vodafone’s business
Employees ·     Global People Survey

·     Engaging informally through internal communications channels and regular meetings with managers

Suppliers ·     Assessments and workshops to help suppliers improve their performance

·     Collaborating with key network suppliers

Investors ·     Investor Relations team

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

Vodafone identified the issues its stakeholders were most concerned about through stakeholder engagement, as described in the table above.

What actions were taken by Vodafone to respond to customer and public concerns about mobiles, masts and public health?

In its 2014/2015 Sustainability Report Vodafone reports that it took the following actions for responding to customer and public concerns about mobiles, masts and public health, based on the company’s approach to materiality – on taking action on what matters, where it matters:

  • Operating within explicit guidelines
  • Vodafone’s mobiles and masts operate in accordance with the guidelines set by the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an independent advisory body which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Forming a board on radiofrequency (RF) matters
  • [tweetthis]Vodafone has a board devoted to radiofrequency (RF) matters.[/tweetthis] The board:
    • monitors public concerns
    • aids local markets in providing public information and advice
    • reviews the available information about mobile devices, masts and health
    • determines Vodafone’s strategy, policies and goals
  • Monitoring electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions
  • In some markets (such as Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and the UK) Vodafone has Independent Field Monitoring Initiatives that record RF emissions in specific locations 24 hours a day. The data is sent to a central point and measured against International Commission of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines or national limits on EMF. Community members can access the data through websites hosted by local councils or universities. For instance, the HERMES Programme in Greece monitors electromagnetic radiation emitted by a variety of sources in the environment.
  • Vodafone’s policies on RF Safety ensure that Vodafone follows strict industry-wide standards on the electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile devices and masts. Levels of compliance are assessed across the Group once a year.
  • In 2014/15, all of Vodafone’s European markets and all but two markets in the Asia, Middle East & Africa region complied fully with its policy on RF safety.
  • Funding independent EMF research
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is giving priority to studies that are monitoring possible long-term health effects and the use of mobile phones by children.
  • Vodafone is devoted to developing scientific understanding of the effects of mobile devices and base stations on health by funding independent scientific research – indirectly through national, regional and international research programmes – into the areas of main concern identified by the WHO.

Which GRI indicators/Standards have been addressed?

The GRI indicators/Standards addressed in this case are:

1) G4-PR1: Percentage of significant product and service categories for which health and safety impacts are assessed for improvement – the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 416-1 Assessment of the health and safety impacts of product and service categories

2) G4-PR2: Total number of incidents of non-compliance with regulations and voluntary codes concerning the health and safety impacts of products and services during their life cycle, by type of outcomes – the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 416-2 Incidents of non-compliance concerning the health and safety impacts of products and services

 

References:

1) This case study was compiled using published information by Vodafone which is located at the links below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses but 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 following links:

http://www.vodafone.com/content/dam/sustainability/2015/pdf/vodafone-full-report-2015.pdf (2014/2015 Sustainability Report by Vodafone)

http://www.vodafone.com/content/index/about/sustainability/mpmh/commitment-and-goals.html (May 2016)

2) http://www.fbrh.co.uk/en/global-reporting-initiative-gri-g4-guidelines-download-page

3) https://g4.globalreporting.org/Pages/default.aspx

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

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