Stakeholder engagement is a critical part of our corporate responsibility governance, and we participate in regular dialogue and structured collaboration throughout the year. We conduct stakeholder engagement assessments every 2-3 years, and plan to commence our next assessment in Spring 2021.
As part of our ongoing governance, we continuously monitor pressing and emerging ESG issues and current events and prioritize programmatic and managerial efforts on those topics, as appropriate.
OUR APPROACH TO STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT
Every 2–3 years, we systematically engage a broad sampling of internal and external stakeholders to identify and prioritize the most significant environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts, risks and opportunities our company should address to help ensure long-term business success. This stakeholder engagement assessment provides insight into how AT&T should focus our resources, reporting and communications. We monitor our leading ESG topics for emerging developments and adjust managerial and programmatic efforts accordingly. We also report our activities and progress toward publicly stated goals annually.
For our stakeholder engagement assessment process, AT&T follows the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) definition of material topics as those “that reflect the organization’s significant economic, environmental and social impacts; or substantively influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders.”
In 2019, we conducted AT&T’s 5th such stakeholder engagement assessment, which represents our global operations—including WarnerMedia and Xandr. We identified a list of 29 leading ESG topics for the telecommunications as well as media and entertainment industries. In collaboration with ERM, we utilized specialized software from Datamaran to analyze ESG topics across thousands of data sources, including corporate financial and non-financial reports, mainstream and social media, and regulatory databases and websites.
To understand the relative importance of the identified topics, we distributed electronic surveys globally to more than 26,000 individuals across 15 internal and external stakeholder groups. We received nearly 1,000 responses, representing virtually every aspect of our business—including AT&T employees and officers across our operating companies, business and consumer customers, investors, suppliers, distributors, government and non-government organizations (NGOs), as well as programmatic and community collaborators.
In addition to electronic surveys, we conducted live qualitative interviews with senior leaders from our CSR organization and officers from our CSR Governance Council, representing each of our operating companies. The final data also included measurements from AT&T stakeholder reputation and qualitative desktop research representing the interests of investors, corporate peers, distributors, industry associations, NGOs and unions.
After converting the qualitative interviews and research into quantitative metrics, and incorporating the electronic survey responses, we input the data into the Datamaran platform for analysis and plotting. For the 29 ESG topics identified, external stakeholder and employee rankings were positioned along the Y-axis. AT&T senior manager and officer rankings were positioned along the X-axis, representing the relative importance of the topics to AT&T’s business.
We are continuing to conduct assessments across our Latin American operations to gain additional targeted insights that will further inform our work in those countries.
The results of our 2019 stakeholder engagement assessment are shown in the interactive matrix above. Clicking on each topic displays a brief definition and links to relevant issue brief(s), which detail our managerial and programmatic approach to the topic as well as key performance indicators and GRI disclosures.
The 3 curved bands represent levels of relative importance to AT&T and our stakeholders, although all topics are considered important and impactful to our business. Topics ranking higher with our stakeholders generate greater outside engagement and more frequent communication. Top business priorities necessitate increased collaboration across our business.
AT&T has also developed an instrument to survey stakeholders and assess their perceptions of our corporate reputation and brand. On a monthly basis, the system measures the overall reputation of AT&T — or emotional attachment — among consumers who state they are familiar with our company’s operations or programs. We’re also able to measure interest and awareness of specific AT&T corporate responsibility programs or emerging social issues, and we can sample impressions of new programs under development.
Our measurements confirm that awareness of AT&T corporate responsibility efforts improves company reputation — which in turn generally positively affects key business metrics such as willingness to buy or recommend, and willingness to give AT&T the benefit-of-the-doubt in times of difficulty.
The results of our ongoing stakeholder engagement efforts are reported to the CSR Governance Council and the Public Policy & Corporate Reputation Committee of the AT&T Board of Directors. The insights gleaned from stakeholder engagement efforts help guide our corporate responsibility strategy, improve our business operations and policies, ensure transparent reporting, and prioritize programmatic investments and collaboration across the business.
Global Reporting Initiative | GRI Standards Disclosures: 102-44, 102-46, 102-47