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. For the purposes of this effort, AT&T follows the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) definition of material aspects as those “that reflect the organization’s significant economic, environmental and social impacts; or substantively influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders.”

In 2016, we worked with GlobeScan to conduct our fourth materiality assessment. With GlobeScan’s guidance, we created a list of 36 sustainability-related topics based on existing materiality themes, GRI topics, industry reporting, senior level interviews with our Citizenship & Sustainability Steering Committee and media analysis. We then collected input from internal and external stakeholders to understand the relative importance of the topics.

In total, 1,475 stakeholders representing AT&T employees, consumers and professional stakeholders from the United States and Latin America provided insight into the prioritization of these topics 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. We averaged respondents’ ranking of each topic and plotted the results along the Y-axis, representing importance to stakeholders and consumers. 

Internally, we interviewed 358 employees, including 45 executives and 291 managers, to assess and rank the impacts of our topics on business success. We averaged their responses and plotted the topics on the X-axis.

The full results of our assessment are shown below in a table format; click here for a printable version. While all of the identified issues shown are viewed as material, the general positioning of these issues illustrates the relative degree of importance for AT&T, with those in the top-right quadrant ranking highest for both our stakeholders and our business success. 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 details.

For each topic, we provide information through our external website and/or a collection of 28 issue briefs. Each issue brief reports key performance indicators, GRI data (where applicable and available), our management approach of the issue and details of company action.


Leading Themes

Through analysis of our material topics, 9 broad themes emerged. These themes help identify connections among our material topics. Please read below for an overview of these themes.

Reliable & Affordable Network Access

Click on the blue italicized material topics for more information: Network and data securityNetwork reliabilityAffordabilityAccessibility of products and servicesDeployment to rural and underserved areasInternet governance

Our network is the foundation of our business and a critical resource for the millions of people, businesses and organizations who depend on it. In the U.S. alone, more than 400 million people and 1 million businesses use our high-speed mobile internet network. Additionally, 3.5 million businesses — from the largest multinational corporations to small businesses — turn to AT&T, and our global IP network connects businesses on 6 continents, representing 99% of the world’s economy. Information and communication technology networks are key parts of our everyday lives, and as we increasingly depend on networks to carry more information, they must remain reliable and highly secure.

AT&T is continually improving security through active research and development programs; influencing (via standards organizations) and tracking of industry developments; and evaluating new security technologies and products. We also constantly employ new tools and systems to deliver highly effective security safeguards.

With hundreds of millions of devices connected to our network, we continue to invest in and enhance our network to drive service improvements. Over the last 5 years (2012 – 2016), AT&T invested more in the United States than any other public company. Our total investment (U.S. and international) during this 5 year period, including capital investment and acquisitions of spectrum and wireless operations, was more than $140 billion.

We are also committed to using a variety of technologies to expand Internet access to more locations. High-speed Internet is an important tool for advancing opportunities in all communities by offering increased access to education, healthcare and employment. As innovation introduces new opportunities every day, we are helping to shrink the digital divide for rural and underserved populations. We are expanding access to Internet through our low-cost home Internet program; connecting communities to high-speed Internet connections; and empowering consumers to get the most out of their connections. 

Employee Investment

Click on the blue italicized material topics for more information: Investing in education & high-tech skills development; Investing in employees, Employee compensation & benefits, Work-life balance & healthy lifestyles; Employee diversity; Occupational health and safety; Philanthropy & employee volunteering; Freedom of association

Talented, engaged employees are key to our company’s success, and we strive to be the industry’s employer of choice by investing in our people.

Our goal is to support our employees’ engagement efforts by giving them tools, resources and opportunities they can use to make a difference in their communities. We engage employees through a variety of initiatives.

For example, our Do One Thing (DOT) program encourages employees to commit to regular, measurable actions (DOTs) that are good for themselves, their communities and/or the company. Through AT&T’s Aspire Mentoring Academy, AT&T employees mentor underserved middle and high school students.

The Your Health Matters (YHM) initiative delivers a comprehensive health and wellness program that engages our employees, supports health care consumerism and manages health care conditions and costs for participants.

We’re also helping our people grow and follow their desired career paths. For example, in 2016, we invested $250 million in employee learning and professional development programs. We also spent more than $34 million on tuition assistance for employees. At the same time, we’re looking toward the future and helping our employees prepare for the skills that will be required by technology. Working in collaboration with Georgia Tech and Udacity Inc., we helped create the first-ever Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) degree. Since 2014, we have continued to work with Udacity to create several new self-paced, fast-track-technical credentials called Nanodegree programs. Currently there are 8 different nanodegrees in our portfolio for employees. These will provide managers with additional training opportunities for our IP, mobile and cloud future.

AT&T Employee Resource Groups and Employee Networks also offer an opportunity for professional development, engagement and growth. We support the activities of employee resource groups and employee networks with total membership now topping 136,000. 

Customer Safety & Security

Click on the blue italicized material topics for more information: Network and data securityCustomer privacyOnline safetyPromoting safe use of products and servicesWireless communications and healthResponsible contentHazardous or harmful materials in products (Toxics)

We take customer privacy very seriously. Our customers have choices about how we use their information. We are also committed to transparency in communicating our privacy policy to our customers in plain language.

Our Chief Security Office is dedicated to the protection of the AT&T global network. It supports a broad range of functions, from security policy management to security solutions. Additionally, the group reviews and assesses our security control posture to keep pace with industry developments and to satisfy regulatory and business requirements.

We are also dedicated to empowering our customers to use our products and services in a safe and responsible manner. To empower our consumers to seize the benefits of technology while avoiding safety pitfalls, we created a number of safety programs that include education campaigns, parental controls for mobile phone and media content and collaborations with nonprofits and government entities. For example, Digital You® is an AT&T campaign that provides tips, tools and information to help consumers get online safely and securely.

Customer Enablement

Click on the blue italicized material topics for more information: AffordabilityProducts and services that enable social and environmental benefitsAccessibility of products and servicesOnline safetyDeployment to rural and underserved areas

Our greatest potential to enable our customers is through the power of our network. Goals, such as the following, help us achieve this.

  • By 2020: We will enable our customers to lead more sustainable lives by expanding access to technology, further integrating sustainability solutions into products and measuring the impacts.
  • By 2025: We will enable carbon savings 10x the footprint of our operations by enhancing the efficiency of our network to reduce our own carbon emissions and using AT&T technologies to help customers do the same.

We are in a unique position to help customers mitigate their environmental impact, improve their resiliency and tackle social challenges. We believe technology will continue to play a critical role in transitioning to a more resource efficient world, increasing business resiliency and improving daily lives. One way we are doing this is through our Smart Cities framework, which helps cities better serve their citizens. Our framework helps cities improve functions like transportation, lighting, safety and sustainability. We’re using Internet of Things (IoT) innovations to create impactful solutions and forming alliances with technology leaders and industry organizations to further enable our customers.

We also offer several products that have the ability to create efficiencies and environmental savings for customers. We are working with Carbon Trust and BSR to establish a methodology for measuring the environmental benefits enabled by these products. 

Mobilized Learning

AffordabilityInvesting in education & high-tech skills developmentProducts and services that enable social and environmental benefitAccessibility of products and servicesOnline safetyDeployment to rural and underserved areas

Technology is fundamentally altering education by removing barriers so that all — regardless of age, gender, income or ZIP code — can have the opportunity to reach their goals.

By investing in new tools and solutions that leverage our unique technologies and capabilities, AT&T enables personalized and mobilized learning for students of all ages and backgrounds. We provide and support opportunities to foster skills that meet the needs of the future workforce. We connect AT&T employees with students to mentor and help them discover their passions and potential.

We support mobilized learning through a variety of channels, including the AT&T Aspire Accelerator, which aims to support innovations that have the potential to help every student achieve a bright, successful future — exponentially and at scale. In 2016, there were 6 innovative ed-tech startups chosen to receive a financial investment, mentorship and access to expert services from AT&T and others.  

To prepare more people with the skills needed for high-demand tech jobs requiring technological expertise, we’re working with external organizations — like Udacity, Coursera and numerous universities — to create opportunities for specialized online degrees or certifications.

Environmental Stewardship throughout the Value Chain

Click on the blue italicized material topics for more information: Products and services that enable social and environmental benefitEnergy efficiency of productsEnvironmentally responsible supply chainCompany energy useAlternative energy uptakeCompany water useImpact of 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 Change Policy guides our actions. The highest levels of leadership in the company engage on climate-related challenges and opportunities.

We work with other companies, governments, non-profits and academia to promote technology that tackles climate change and resource resilience. At the same time, we continually strive to reduce our own energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience in all our operations.

Goals hold us accountable:

  • By 2025, enable carbon savings 10 times the footprint of our operations by enhancing the efficiency of our network and delivering sustainable customer solutions.
  • Reduce our Scope 1 emissions by 20% by 2020, using a 2008 Scope 1 baseline of 1,172,476 mtons CO2-e.
  • Reduce the electricity consumption of our company relative to data growth on our network by 60% by 2020 (baseline of 2013).
  • Expand our on-site alternative energy capacity to at least 45 MW — more than double our 2014 capacity — by the end of 2017 and intensify our pursuit of off-site renewables with competitive financials.

Ethical and Responsible Supply Chain

Click on the blue italicized material topics for more information: Environmentally responsible supply chainBribery and CorruptionSupplier diversityFreedom of associationSupply chain human rights practices

We outline our citizenship & sustainability expectations in our Principles of Conduct for Suppliers, which covers topics including sustainable business practices, diversity, conflict minerals, ethics and labor rights. Suppliers are required to acknowledge these principles as part of the annual supplier sustainability assessment. Additionally, every new contract agreement with suppliers requires that they acknowledge the principles.

As reflected in the Principles of Conduct for Suppliers, we take issues around human rights and labor practices in our supply chain seriously. AT&T addresses human rights and labor practices through our supplier engagement. Suppliers accounting for 80% of our spend received the 2016 AT&T Supplier Sustainability Assessment. The assessment requested suppliers to attest that they have policies that prohibit child labor; prohibit involuntary labor; protect freedom of association; prohibit discrimination; prohibit physical coercion; limit the number of working hours; and address wages and compensation.

AT&T also communicates its human rights policy directly to suppliers and expects them to recognize and abide by it. It is posted on AT&T’s Supplier Portal, along with other policies and materials that explain our supply chain sustainability approach.

Transparency and Governance

Click on the blue italicized material topics for more information: Customer privacyResponsible marketing and transparency of offersInternet GovernanceTransparent public policy engagementFreedom of expressionBribery and Corruption  

We take customer privacy very seriously, and our privacy commitments are fundamental to the way we do business every day.

At AT&T, we are committed to transparency in communicating our privacy policy to our customers in plain language. We also continue to pledge to protect customer privacy to the fullest extent possible and in compliance with applicable law. We provide details on customer data that has been requested by government or law enforcement in our Transparency Report.

Our privacy policy helps our customers understand how we collect information, how we use it and how we protect it. Use of our products and services, as well as visits to our websites, are subject to this policy. The importance of protecting customer privacy is featured in our Code of Business Conduct, which all AT&T employees are responsible for reviewing annually and understanding its provisions.

We also respect the freedom of expression of our users. We promote the right of our users to hold and freely share opinions without interference, and to access a full range of ideas and information. We believe restrictions on freedom of expression using communications services and the Internet will diminish the usefulness of these resources — dampening the exchange of ideas and reducing innovation and commercial opportunities. Our commitment to this issue is detailed in our Human Rights in Communication Policy. We were also the first American company to sign onto the guiding principles of the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Privacy; we continued this engagement through 2016. Our work is also supported by our Code of Business Conduct, our Privacy Policy and our Principles of Conduct for Suppliers.

Waste Reduction

Click on the blue italicized material topics for more information: Hazardous or harmful materials in products (Toxics)Product recycling and reuseHazardous & solid wasteE-waste

We are committed to reducing the waste byproducts of our operations and to handling the waste we produce responsibly.

The AT&T Global Supply Chain Investment Recovery group works across all entities and affiliates of the company to reuse, sell and recycle materials (including operational waste, network materials and scrap) that are considered solid waste. In particular, we are committed to handling e-waste in a responsible manner. Directed by policy, the AT&T Global Supply Chain Investment Recovery group directs all e-waste collected for recycling to vendors that are R2 certified.

Understanding and communicating the lifecycle impact of our products is also 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 the safe use of products. 

Global Reporting Initiative G4 Indicators: G4-18, G4-19, G4-23, G4-24, G4-26 and G4-27