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Corporate responsibility

Performance in the 2009 financial year

Access to communications

Access to communications offers a significant opportunity for Vodafone to make a strong contribution to society, with a considerable body of research showing that mobile communications has the potential to change people’s lives for the better, by promoting economic and social development.

Emerging markets

In January 2009, Vodafone published research on the socio-economic impact of mobile phones in India. The report found that the GDP of Indian states with higher mobile penetration can be expected to grow faster than states with lower mobile penetration at a rate of approximately 1.2% per 10% of penetration. Vodafone’s Social Investment Fund was set up in 2007 to promote the development of products with high social value that may not otherwise be seen as commercially attractive. Since the fund was established, eight initiatives have been supported across the Vodafone footprint in areas such as mobile health, mobile transactions, and entrepreneur and small and medium enterprise development.

Vodafone also continued to focus on mobile payment services and own branded handsets for emerging markets:

  • In the 2009 financial year, 10.7 million Vodafone branded handsets were sold in 29 markets. Approximately 70% of these handsets cost less than US$50.
  • The Vodafone Money Transfer service is now live in three markets, Kenya, Tanzania and Afghanistan, with over six million subscribers using it to do simple financial transactions. This includes person-to-person money transfer, salary disbursement and bill payment. Vodafone has created a dedicated business unit to progress the extension of these services to additional markets and new partners.


In the 2009 financial year, Vodafone conducted a review of the market for accessible products across the European Union (‘EU’) and surveyed its local operating companies’ initiatives. The review resulted in a revised strategy to provide more effective targeted support for customers in three key segments identified as areas where Vodafone can have an important impact: blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing and the elderly or those with special healthcare needs.

Vodafone Spain has launched Vodafone Speak, which is subsequently going to be trialled in other countries. This text-to-speech software, enabling blind and visually impaired customers to use text messages, is an updated version of Mobile Speak, which is currently available in nine of Vodafone’s operating companies. Vodafone Speak is easier to use than its predecessor and can be downloaded and installed free via SMS text message. Other products also being trialled by Vodafone Spain include T-loop headsets, mobile video for deaf signing and mobile GPS navigation systems for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Safe and responsible internet experience

Vodafone’s reputation depends on earning and maintaining the trust of its customers. The way the Group deals with certain key consumer issues directly impacts trust in Vodafone. These include responsible delivery of age sensitive content and services, mobile advertising and protecting customers’ privacy.

Responsible delivery of content and services

Over the past year, Vodafone has been increasingly involved in industry work in this area. Having implemented age-restricted content controls in all markets where such content is provided, the Group’s focus moved towards ensuring a safe and responsible internet experience when using new media applications. These areas have particular relevance to the mobile communications sector and have formed a key part of Vodafone’s activities during the 2009 financial year:

  • Vodafone has incorporated the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU, published in February 2009, into its own best practice guidelines for social networking and other user interactive services.
  • Together with other industry partners, the Group was instrumental in developing the teach today website (, providing advice for teachers and students to help create a safer online environment for children and young people. Vodafone has also developed a dedicated website for parents, covering all aspects of today’s technology, including mobile phones, to help them prevent its misuse.
  • All of Vodafone’s operating companies within the EU have signed up to national codes of conduct and are implementing the EU safer mobile framework at national level.

Consumer privacy and freedom of expression

Vodafone knows that its users increasingly wish to exercise control over how their personal information is made available and recognises the need to ensure that internet commerce over mobile and new business models such as advertising, gains the trust of both consumers and regulators. This is why the Group seeks to ensure that its products and services are designed from the outset to address privacy risks and concerns, particularly those associated with social networking and media, as well as location-enabled applications and services.

The Group now provides mobile advertising services in 18 markets and it has continued to adopt a cautious approach to ensure these benefits are balanced with respect for the customers’ privacy. Vodafone has sponsored, and actively participated in, a multi-stakeholder initiative exploring solutions to achieve robust and trusted methods of establishing consumer consent for online services. The Group also took an active role in the GSM Association’s mobile media metrics programme to create a measurement process for mobile browsing that is designed to protect the privacy of mobile users whilst providing rich statistical planning information for the media and advertising communities.

The Group continued to engage on the issues of privacy and freedom of expression in the human rights context throughout the financial year. This included participation in the initiative that was launched in December 2008 as the Global Network Initiative (‘GNI’). Vodafone has not signed the GNI principles but is currently engaging other companies with substantial telecommunications businesses, building on the progress made to date, to develop a more appropriate, sector specific response to these issues.

Climate change

Vodafone recognises climate change as one of the most significant challenges facing society. The Group’s climate change strategy has two key elements, focusing on limiting its own emissions and developing products and services to reduce the emissions of its customers.

Last year, the Group announced that by 2020 it will reduce its carbon dioxide (‘CO2’) emissions by 50% against the 2007 financial year baseline of 1.18 million tonnes. This baseline includes all operating companies within the Group throughout the 2007 financial year. The primary strategy to achieve the 50% reduction is through direct reduction in CO2 emissions. This is to be achieved through the evolution of network technology, investment in energy efficiency and by making greater use of renewably generated electricity. Energy use associated with the operation of the network accounts for around 80% of the Group’s CO2 emissions. In the 2009 financial year, the total energy use of the Group’s baseline operations increased by 2.3% to 2,863 GWh. This increase is due to growth in the Group’s network energy consumption. As network technology evolves and is consolidated, the energy efficiency of the Group’s network is projected to improve. The total CO2 emissions of these operating companies decreased by 7.4%, to 1.19 million tonnes of CO2. The carbon intensity of the Group’s energy consumption has decreased due to the increased use of green tariff energy generated from renewable sources and the decrease in carbon intensity of grid electricity across many of the Group’s operating markets. For more detailed analysis of the Group’s carbon reporting please refer to

The Group is trialling the use of onsite micro-renewable generation with the objective of reducing diesel consumption in remote sites where there may be no access to the electricity grid. These are the sites with the greatest financial return on renewable investment.

Vodafone has developed climate change strategies for those operating companies which have joined the Group since the 50 % target was set. Vodafone Turkey has put in place a local climate change strategy, which includes investment in more efficient air-conditioning and direct energy metering of network sites. The scale of the Group’s operations in India represents the largest contribution towards the Group’s overall CO2 emissions. A climate change strategy has been developed initially focusing on improving the quality of data to support setting a target for India, which balances the need to constrain emissions with the demand for access to communications which empowers economic development. The instability and limited coverage of the national electricity grid requires diesel generation on the majority of sites and Vodafone is undertaking micro-renewable trials at a number of locations.

In the 2009 financial year, the total CO2 emissions of all Vodafone operating companies, including the Group’s operations in Turkey but excluding India, were 1.31 million tonnes. The estimated CO2 emissions of Vodafone’s operations in India were 1.90 million tonnes. This includes emissions from the network sites managed by Vodafone and the network sites managed by Vodafone’s joint venture, Indus Towers.

Sustainable products and services

The information and communications technology (‘ICT’) industry’s role in the transformation to a low carbon economy was considered in the “Smart 2020” report commissioned by the industry group the Global eSustainability Initiative (see The report calculated the potential emissions saving from ICT applications at 7.8 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2020, representing 15% of total global emissions. Applications for mobile communications include the enabling of more efficient logistics processes, the implementation of smart grids and remote energy monitoring and substitution of travel through teleconferencing and remote working. Vodafone is focusing on developing products and services that will enable customers to reduce their emissions. For example, Vodafone has signed up to the GSM Association’s initiative to standardise mobile phone chargers and reduce their energy consumption.

Vodafone continues to address the reuse and recycling of handsets, accessories and network equipment. The Group has worked with suppliers to ensure substances prohibited by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive are phased out. The Group complies with the EU’s Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Directive through its handset recycling programmes in all operating companies where it applies. During the 2009 financial year, 1.82 million phones were collected for reuse and recycling through collection programmes in 16 local operating companies, exceeding the target of 1.5 million. 4,860 tonnes of network equipment waste was generated in all operating companies, excluding India, with 97% of this sent for reuse or recycling, exceeding the Group’s target of 95%.

Responsible business practices

Mobile phones, masts and health

Vodafone recognises that there is public concern about the safety of radio frequency (‘RF’) fields from mobile phones and base stations. The Group contributes to the funding of independent scientific research to resolve scientific uncertainty in areas prioritised by the World Health Organisation (‘WHO’). In 2006, the WHO identified the following three main areas for additional research: long term (more than 10 years) exposure to low-level RF fields, possible health effects of mobile device use in children and dosimetry (the way levels of RF absorbed are calculated). There is comprehensive access to relevant peer review and published scientific research reviews available at

Vodafone requires manufacturers of the mobile devices it sells to test for specific absorption rate compliance with standards set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. Testing is carried out for use both against the ear and against, or near, the body. Vodafone has been actively engaged with the International Electrotechnical Commission Standards Organisation in developing a new global protocol for testing phones for use against, or near, the body. This new standard, which better reflects customers’ use of mobile devices, was approved by a national committee vote in March 2009.

Vodafone continues to engage closely with local communities as part of the planning process for new masts. Fifteen operating companies undertake independent RF field monitoring as part of an ongoing programme of community engagement. The Group’s long term programme of engagement, with a range of stakeholders, aims to reduce levels of concern amongst the public and to demonstrate that Vodafone is acting responsibly. In surveys of external stakeholder opinion conducted annually over the last three years, an average of 78% of respondents regarded Vodafone as acting responsibly regarding mobile phones, masts and health.

Responsible network deployment

Vodafone’s mobile communication services rely on a network of radio base stations that transmit and receive calls. Vodafone recognises that network deployment can cause concern to communities, usually about the visual impact of base stations or health issues concerning RF fields. During the year, the Group continued to track compliance with its policy on responsible network deployment and with national industry codes of best practice on network deployment. The Group has started to audit first tier contractors to gain assurance of their adherence to Vodafone’s responsible network deployment policy. A significant number of local operating companies have already conducted site audits of their contractors and the overall aim is to extend this programme across Vodafone’s footprint, including beyond first tier contractors. However, the changing nature of Vodafone’s contractors’ footprint poses a challenge to achieving this rapidly.

The Group also further developed its internal procedures leading to network optimisation. By cooperating with other mobile communications operators to share sites, the Group is reducing the total number of base stations required. This lowers costs, enables faster network deployment and reduces the environmental footprint of the network without loss of quality or coverage. The Group is now conducting network sharing in all but one of its controlled markets.

Vodafone aims to comply with local planning regulations but is sometimes found to be in breach. This is normally related to conflicting local, regional or national planning regulations. During the 2009 financial year, excluding India, Vodafone was found in breach of planning regulations relating to 492 of its 105,164 mast sitings. Fines levied by regulatory bodies or courts in relation to offences under environmental law or regulations were approximately £135,000.

Supply chain

During the 2009 financial year, Vodafone continued to implement its code of ethical purchasing, which sets out environmental and labour standards for suppliers. During the 2009 financial year:

  • 65 strategic global suppliers have been assessed using the Group’s supplier evaluation scorecard in which CR accounts for 10% of the total. The scorecard evaluates the supplier’s CR management systems, public reporting and approach to managing their suppliers. Over the last three years, a total of 535 suppliers have been evaluated using the scorecard.
  • 18 site evaluations of high risk suppliers have been completed.
  • 82% of local strategic and preferred suppliers, excluding India, responded to a request for more information on the policies and programmes they have in place to meet the requirements of Vodafone’s code of ethical purchasing.

The Group participated in the Carbon Disclosure Project supply chain initiative to help increase its understanding of the risks and opportunities that climate change presents to the supply chain and has added climate change requirements into the Group’s supplier evaluation scorecard.

Social investment

The Vodafone Foundation and its network of 22 local operating company and associate foundations have continued to implement a global social investment programme. During the 2009 financial year, the Company made a charitable grant of £24.0 million to The Vodafone Foundation. The majority of The Vodafone Foundation funds are distributed in grants through operating company foundations to a variety of local charitable organisations meeting the needs of the communities in which they operate.

The Vodafone Foundation made additional grants to charitable partners engaged in a variety of global projects. Its areas of focus are: sport and music as a means of benefiting some of the most disadvantaged young people and their communities, and disaster relief and preparedness. In addition, operating companies donated a further £18.0 million to their foundations and a further £2.9 million directly to a variety of causes. Total donations for the year ended 31 March 2009 were £48.2 million and included donations of £3.3 million towards foundation operating costs.