AT&T Issue Briefs

Our issue briefs provide additional details on topics identified as most important by our stakeholders. View all the issue briefs on the Reporting Library for a comprehensive overview or choose an issue in the drop-down menu.


Stakeholder Engagement Topics
Energy efficiency of products; Hazardous or harmful materials in products (toxics); Product recycling/reuse

Stakeholder Engagement Topics
Energy efficiency of products; Hazardous or harmful materials in products (toxics); Product recycling/reuse



Our Position


AT&T works throughout the life cycle of our products and services to try to improve their environmental impact and to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions.


2018 Key Performance Indicators
Total number of devices reused or recycled through AT&T
DIRECTV set-top boxes reused or recycled
U-verse set-top boxes reused or recycled
Broadband devices reused or recycled
Mobility devices reused or recycled
Materials from take back programs reused or sold
Materials from take back programs recycled
Materials from take back programs landfilled
Amount of paper used for direct mail and office paper (metric tons [MT])
Amount of paper recycled (MT)

2020/2025 Goals

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2020 Goal
We will enable AT&T customers to lead more sustainable lives by expanding access to technology, further integrating sustainability solutions into products and measuring the impacts.
2025 Goal
AT&T will enable carbon savings 10 times the footprint of our operations by enhancing the efficiency of our network and delivering sustainable customer solutions.

Targets to Our 2020/2025 Goals

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2020 TARGET: Collect more than 200 million devices for reuse, refurbishment or recycling by end-of-year 2020.
PROGRESS: As of the end of 2018, AT&T has refurbished or recycled approximately 175 million devices since 2007. This includes approximately: 92 million DIRECTV devices; 18.7 million U-verse devices; 10 million broadband devices; and 53 million mobility devices.
2020 TARGET: Provide sustainability information for all AT&T-branded network-connected consumer wireless devices.
PROGRESS: In 2018, 100% of eligible device models were scored under our Eco-Ratings system which rates products from 1 to 5 stars for 20 different environmental and social criteria across 5 different categories.


Our Action


We work closely with suppliers, customers and community groups to improve the sustainability of our products and services throughout their life cycle. We outline our expectations for suppliers in our Principles of Conduct for Suppliers, which covers topics such as eliminating wasteful practices, being more energy efficient, reducing total cost of ownership, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, using more sustainable packaging and creating end-of-life recycling alternatives.

  • Packaging

    At AT&T, we use a lifecycle approach to evaluate and minimize the impacts of packaging changes on key sustainability metrics such as energy and water use, GHG emissions and packaging waste. We focus on topics such as material reuse and reduction, environmentally friendly materials, recycled/certified content, end-of-life recyclability and transportation efficiency.

    For example, in 2018, we developed a pilot program that explored replacing plastic tape with paper tape on boxes housing select U-verse products. Paper tape can be recycled, whereas as plastic tape cannot.

  • Informing Our Customers

    Our AT&T Eco-Rating system provides customers with an easy way to understand the environmental and social factors associated with their devices. We developed the system with sustainability consultancy BSR and in 2017, we worked with UL to refine the evaluation approach, audit the evidence of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) submissions and assess AT&T devices (including handsets and tablets) against performance criteria.

    The Eco-Ratings system drives innovation as we work with manufacturers to continuously improve performance. It also helps us gain a holistic view of our entire portfolio across its lifecycle.

    Under the Eco-Rating system, device manufacturers evaluate their products against 20 performance criteria across 5 different attributes, assigning 1 to 5 stars. They submit their assessments to AT&T, which we review to confirm reported data. The 5 attributes against which devices are evaluated include:

    • Substances of concern: Restriction of antimony trioxide, beryllium compounds, extractable nickel, PVC, phthalates and chlorinated and brominated flame retardants.
    • Environmentally preferred materials: Assessment of recycled plastic in housing and recycled metals in device.
    • Energy efficiency and charging: Compliance of device chargers with California Energy Commission (CEC) standards.
    • End-of-life and recycling: Assurance that batteries are readily removable and the device is easily disassembled by recycler and contains recyclable materials equal to or greater than 65% of its mass.
    • Environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing: Manufacturers should have a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) sustainability report, a conflict minerals disclosure, a standalone human rights policy or statement and policy, and management systems and public performance reporting for labor, occupational safety and environment at assembly and/or supplier facilities.

    The next phase of our work, Eco-Rating 3.0, will cover a broader spectrum of consumer devices and products to provide consumers greater transparency on product environmental impact. It will also elevate compliance standards for suppliers. We plan to continue our work with BSR and UL to develop this updated program. As part of this effort, we worked with BSR to conduct stakeholder interviews with OEMs and industry leaders, the results of which will inform our approach.


  • Energy Efficiency

    AT&T is committed to working with our suppliers on the development of devices that provide the best performance at the lowest energy consumption practicable. We expect our device manufacturers to keep current on best-in-class energy efficiency practices such as:

    • analyzing the lifecycle performance of the device to estimate energy impacts,
    • using energy management features on devices, and
    • establishing energy efficiency goals.

    Our handset device manufacturers are designing smartphones to be highly efficient without compromising user experience, including features — such as power-saving designs — that help optimize battery standby and usage time.

    Set-top Boxes

    In 2018, AT&T received the ENERGY STAR® award for Product Design, recognizing the company’s milestone of 100 million ENERGY STAR® certified set-top boxes installed.

    AT&T measures and monitors the energy impacts of DIRECTV and U-verse set-top boxes. We have reduced set-top boxes energy consumption by more than 26% per device since 2012. Our customer emissions have dropped by more than 2 million MT CO2e since 2012, a 36% decrease on a per-customer basis. AT&T strives to reduce the energy and carbon impacts of its consumer products. DIRECTV Now, a streaming service that does not require a set-top box, is one example of AT&T technology that reduces carbon impacts as compared to traditional service offerings.

    AT&T and DIRECTV are signatories to the Set-Top Box Energy Conservation Agreement, a consortium of industry-leading multi-channel video providers and device manufacturers. According to the group’s Annual Report, “the Voluntary Agreement reduced national set-top box annual energy consumption from 32 TWh in 2012 to 21 TWh in 2017, a reduction of 34%, even as functionality and features of set-top boxes have increased. This 11 TWh reduction, equivalent to almost as much power generated by 4 typical 500-megawatt coal-run power plants, represents consumer savings of more than $1.4 billion and prevention of 8.1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2017 alone.”


    In 2015, AT&T joined several other companies and industry associations in announcing a voluntary agreement to improve the energy efficiency of internet modems, routers and other in-home equipment that delivers broadband service to millions of Americans. The Small Network Equipment Voluntary Agreement sets rigorous requirements to increase the energy efficiency of such equipment by 10–20% compared to typical, recently deployed devices. It covers more than 90% of U.S. broadband households — roughly 80 million homes. According to the group’s Annual Report, “in July 2018, the signatories unanimously amended the Voluntary Agreement and extended its term for an additional 4 years through the end of 2021. The revised Voluntary Agreement includes new, more rigorous Tier 2 energy levels that will become applicable to the signatories’ 90% procurement and sales commitments in 2020. These new levels are on average 11% more efficient than the current Voluntary Agreement levels that have already improved the efficiency of small network equipment by nearly 20% compared to typical, previously deployed devices used by signatories.”

  • Paper Use

    Guided by our Paper Procurement Policy, we strive to reduce, reuse and recycle paper products; increase our role in promoting responsible forest products; and encourage a market that conserves, protects and restores forests. Our policy establishes a goal to increase Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)–certified purchases of direct mail and office paper to 90% and to continue increasing post-customer waste (PCW) content. In 2018, 92.4% of direct mail and office paper purchased was FSC-certified. We also achieved 9.8% PCW content — a 40% improvement since the inception of our Paper Procurement Policy.

    We strive to continue to grow the number of customers using paperless billing — including billing for DIRECTV Now, a paperless billing–only service. We encourage customers to utilize paperless billing at

  • End of Life: Consumer Waste

    At AT&T, we strive to increase device recycling and encourage our customers to be a part of this ongoing initiative. Because devices can be reused, refurbished or recycled, collecting unused devices makes both business and environmental sense. For more information about our waste and recycling, please see our Waste Management issue brief.

    Mobility Devices 

    In 2018, we recovered more than 8.2 million mobility devices. Our customers can recycle their old phones by:

    • Dropping them off at an AT&T retail store recycle bin
    • Taking advantage of the Trade-In Program with an AT&T retail associate or online at
    • Returning their AT&T Next phone when they upgrade

    When recovering devices, our first priority is to protect our customers’ privacy. Once we receive a device, we wipe it of customer-saved data. We also offer our customers detailed information about wiping their devices before they return them. If possible, we refurbish the phone and put it back into the marketplace. This is beneficial from an environmental perspective and can make phones more affordable for those who may be unable to purchase a new phone at full cost.

    If the phone cannot be reused in its entirety, we extract individual parts that might be reusable, such as the camera. The remaining plastics and metals are recycled responsibly. The recovered materials are used in consumer products such as cell phones, PCs and tablets.

    DIRECTV and U-Verse Electronics 

    AT&T is also committed to refurbishing or recycling electronics from our DIRECTV and U-verse subscribers. Customers can have their devices refurbished or recycled by:

    • printing a free shipping label and mailing the device to our recyclers via,
    • having an AT&T technician take the old equipment during an in-home appointment or service call,
    • returning their equipment via the recovery kit or bag provided to customers, or
    • mailing in equipment at UPS or FedEx locations.
    Vendor R2 Certification

    To ensure responsible recycling, all our device recycling and salvage vendors are R2 certified. The R2 Standard for electronics recycling and refurbishment facilities covers areas such as worker health and safety, environmental protection, chain-of-custody reporting and data security.

    AT&T works with Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), the housing body for the R2 Standard. We sit on SERI’s R2 Technical Advisory Committee, which works to develop standards updates that maintain leadership in the recycling electronics value chain.

  • Sustainable Media Production

    For decades, Warner Bros. (WB) has been committed to environmental sustainability, and that commitment includes working with our feature film and television productions to reduce their environmental footprints. Green Production is our global initiative of implementing sustainable practices across our feature film and television productions. As our industry evolves, we are working to accelerate innovation and shift toward more sustainable production practices by supporting innovative technologies, including LED set lighting and digital distribution software; sustainable products, from FSC-certified lumber to post-consumer recycled paper; and waste reduction efforts, such as donating surplus food and materials to local community partners. Source reduction is another key waste reduction strategy — for example, digital distribution of documents reduces printing in the first place.

    Over the years, we’ve learned the best way to implement sustainable practices across our productions is to integrate them into all parts of production. One way we accomplish this is by using LED set lighting. Today, at WB’s Burbank facility, 45% of our set lighting inventory has been upgraded to LED technology.

    We built the first LEED certified sound stage in the world, this 21,600-square-foot sound stage incorporates a number of green elements, including lumber harvested from responsibly managed forests, materials containing recycled content, and a white roof that reflects sunlight and features a 110-kilowatt solar electrical system. A new soundstage, Stage 29, was completed in 2018 at WB’s Burbank studio and, with consultation by the WB corporate responsibility (CR) team, was awarded a Gold rating by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. Notable sustainable elements — including an efficient heating and cooling system, LED lighting, and a 110-kilowatt solar array on its roof — are projected to reduce the building’s energy consumption by more than 50%.

    Our Green Leads are team members who are assigned at the start of production to help set environmental goals and motivate the crew to integrate sustainable practices into their work routines. When a TV show or film wraps, Green Leads summarize their efforts in a report that helps us identify opportunities to improve upon our green productions practices from season to season, film to film.

    Through Encore, the company’s material reuse and donation program, WB CR works with film and television productions to find second homes for a variety of materials, diverting tons of waste each year from landfills. In 2018, we donated numerous meals and surplus items, including clothing, furniture and props, to local non-profit and community organizations.


Since the acquisition of WarnerMedia in June 2018 and the launch of Xandr in September 2018, we are continuing to integrate operationally and through our CSR reporting. For this reason, information for these 2 affiliates is not included in this brief, except where specifically referenced.


More Environment Issue Briefs