Materiality Assessment

AT&T engages a diverse range of stakeholders across all parts of our business. Our Stakeholder Engagement Principles guide our collaboration with our stakeholders.

Through a regular materiality assessment, we systematically engage stakeholders and capture their view into what is most important for our company. The assessment provides critical clarity about how our company should focus our resources, reporting and communications. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines material aspects as those aspects “that reflect the organization’s significant economic, environmental and social impacts; or substantively influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders.”

In 2013, we worked with Deloitte to conduct our third materiality assessment. With their guidance, we created a list of 47 sustainability-related topics based on GRI topics, industry reporting and media analysis. We then collected input from internal and external stakeholders to understand the relative importance of the topics.

Fifty-two stakeholders representing 10 different types of groups provided insight into the prioritization of these topics. We engaged most groups directly through surveys and interviews. When direct engagement was not feasible, we relied on other resources (such as websites, sustainability reports and other communications) as proxies to glean insight into their priorities. These groups included advocacy organizations, employees, consumers, enterprise customers, government, suppliers and analyst firms. We averaged their ranking of each topic and plotted the results along the Y-axis. 

Internally, we interviewed 17 business executives who oversee departments that touch these sustainability-related topics to assess and rank their impact on business success. We averaged their responses and plotted the topics on the X-axis.

The full results of our assessment are below in a table format; click here for a graphic version that is best viewed printed.

Increasing Importance to Stakeholders
  • Ethics/Integrity
  • Disaster Response
  • Education
  • Product Recycling/Reuse
  • Carbon Emissions
  • Network Reliability
  • Social/Environmental Innovation
  • Product Design: Energy Efficiency
  • Volunteerism
  • Philanthropy
  • Customer Privacy
  • Compensation & Benefits  
  • Access-Deployment to Rural/Underserved Areas
  • Network/Data Security
  • Energy Use
  • Product Design: Toxics
  • Anti-Competitive Practice
  • Company Paper Consumption
  • E-Waste
  • Older Adults Safety Online
  • Public Policy
  • Supplier Labor Practices
  • Products w/Social & Environmental Benefits
  • Solid Waste
  • Access/Aging
  • Product Design:Packaging
  • Supplier Diversity
  • Work-Life Balance/Healthy Lifestyles
  • Employee Diversity
  • Supplier Environmental
  • Hazardous Waste
  • Supplier Human Rights
  • Recruitment/Career Development
  • Responsible Marketing/Transparency of Offers
  Increasing Influence on Business Success

The location of each topic in one of the four quadrants generally dictates our approach. We will monitor and assess all topics and report on them at least annually. Topics ranking higher with our stakeholders will promote more outside engagement and frequent communication. Top business priorities will necessitate engagement with our various business units. And the more highly ranked a topic is, the more our reporting will incorporate relevant goals, key performance indicators and other programmatic detail.

For each topic, we provide information through our external website and/or a collection of Issue Briefs on the topics. Each issue briefs reports key data, GRI data (where applicable and available), management approach and company action.

Several broad categories rose to the top through the assessment process. Click on the topics in each category to see the details about each topic. These are as follows: 


greenhouse gas emissions; company energy use; innovation; products that enable social & environmental benefit; company fleet

 AT&T recognizes the importance of transitioning to a world that is more resource efficient. We believe that the ability to increase resource efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be a primary determinant of success in the 21st century world economy. Our Climate and Carbon Emissions Policy guides our actions. The highest levels of leadership in the company engage on climate-related challenges and opportunities.

Our energy efficiency and fleet initiatives directly seek to manage our carbon emissions.

Goals hold us accountable:

  • Reduce our Scope 1 emissions by 20 percent by 2020, using a 2008 Scope 1 baseline of 1,172,476 mtons CO2-e.[1]
  • Reduce the electricity consumption of our company relative to data growth on our network by 60 percent by 2020 (baseline of 2013).
  • By the end of 2015, a majority of spend with strategic suppliers will be with those who track greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and have specific GHG goals.
  • Deploy approximately 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs) over a 10-year period through 2018.[2]

In our response to the CDP climate change survey, we discuss our climate-related risks and opportunities. Our Environmental Health & Safety Policy outlines our commitment to conserve the natural resources we use, because we recognize the need to use energy and other natural resources responsibly.

Product responsibility

product recycling and reuse; product design: energy efficiency; product design: packaging; product design: toxics; supplier human rights; supplier environmental assessment; wireless communications and health; safe use of products; child safety online; older adults safety online

Understanding and communicating the lifecycle impact of our products is important to managing our company’s impact. We work with our suppliers to consider the impact of the materials we use and communicate that information to our customers. We also actively encourage recycling and promote safe use of products.

Our Eco-Rating system provides information on topics including energy efficiency, hazardous substances, and a device’s materials recycling rate and ease of disassembly. Our cell phone recycling program encourages customers to trade-in and recycle their old phones. At the end of 2015, approximately 7.3 million cell phones were reused or recycled through AT&T. 

We are also engaging our suppliers on their environmental and social impact. Our Principles of Conduct for Suppliers outline fundamental expectations for working with AT&T.  We measure the performance of our strategic suppliers on their adherence to sustainable business practices; areas of focus include the environment, health, safety, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, hazardous substances, labor and water. To that end, we are working with the CDP Supply Chain Initiative and EcoDesk to collect the emissions from our top suppliers. At the end of 2015, suppliers representing more than 50% of spend reported that they were tracking greenhouse gas emissions and had greenhouse gas reduction goals.

The safety of our products and services is also a priority for our business. Our It Can Wait program targets the problem of texting while driving and seeks to raise awareness about the dangers and change behavior. We also offer several programs that address online safety for children and older adults.

Impact on society

Education; Innovation; products that enable social & environmental benefit; Disaster response and relief; Volunteerism; Philanthropy

Our products and services hold the potential to tackle social challenges, such as improving education.

Through philanthropic donations we also strive to enrich our communities.  We believe that investing in a well-educated workforce may be the single most important thing we can do to help the United States remain the leader in a digital, global economy. Through our AT&T Aspire program, we have committed to investing $350 million in education.

Our employees and retirees volunteered more than 5.4 million hours of time in community outreach activities in 2015, worth ore than $124 million.[3] Additionally, we have invested more than $600 million in our Network Disaster Recovery program since 1992.

Innovation must lead the way for our company in tackling societal challenges. We’re looking to accelerate innovation by teaming up with developers in our AT&T Foundries. Our Labs foster R&D efforts to bring new products to life.

ICT technology can also enable customers to operate more sustainably. A study from AT&T, CDP and Verdantix – Cloud Computing: The IT Solution for the 21st Century – found that by 2020, large U.S. companies that use cloud computing can achieve annual energy savings of $12.3 billion and annual carbon reductions equivalent to 200 million barrels of oil.  That’s enough to power 5.7 million cars for one year.

Commitment to our customers

Customer privacy; Network and data security; Network reliability; Access – deployment to rural/underserved areas; freedom of expression and relations to government; customer satisfaction

Our network is the foundation for our business. To successfully serve our customers, we must maintain our network’s integrity and reliability.

We take our responsibility to protect our customers’ information and privacy very seriously, and we pledge to continue to do so to the fullest extent possible and always in compliance with the law of the country where the relevant service is provided. Our Transparency Report, issued in early 2014, provides specific information regarding the number and types of government and law enforcement requests to which we responded.  In the future, we’ll issue reports on a semi-annual basis. Additionally, in 2013, AT&T was the first U.S. telecom to join the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Privacy. Through this organization, AT&T engages with other players in the industry, NGOs and government officials to share best practices and address issues that are key to the advancement of human potential and integral to our relationship with our customers.

Our Privacy Policy guides our action. It identifies and describes the way AT&T uses and protects the information we collect about customers and users. Learn more at

Our Human Rights in Communications policy addresses freedom of expression, protection against corruption, labor standards and sustainable environmental practices.

Our world is transitioning to an increasingly mobile, data-driven society — powered by a shift to IP (internet protocol) technology. Already, next-generation broadband has transformed the way we communicate, educate our children, deliver healthcare, consume energy, obtain news and other information, engage in commerce, and interact with government. Learn more about our vision for this transition, as well as specific ways we propose to connect and enable customers. 

Ernst & Young provided assurance over specific aspects of our materiality assessment and not the process in its entirety. To read the aspects of our process over which E&Y performed assurance, please refer to its assurance statement.  

Global Reporting Initiative G4 Indicators: G4-18, G4-19, G4-24, G4-26 and G4-27

[1] For the purposes of tracking progress toward our goal, we are holding refrigerants, engines and portable generators steady in an effort to align performance with actual emissions changes and avoid an inaccurate representation of our progress.

[2] Goal remains the same from previous years; 2018 AFV numbers added to clarify.

[3] The financial equivalent is determined by using $23.07 per volunteer hour, which is based on the 2015 industry standard from Independent Sector, a leading nonprofit organization that determines the financial equivalent for a variety of volunteer initiatives.