AT&T has a longstanding commitment to human rights. We respect and promote human rights in our operations and with stakeholders, including customers, employees and suppliers.
In keeping with our longstanding commitment to human rights, we operate with transparency, engage with stakeholders and promote responsiveness and accountability when we receive grievances.
We conduct due diligence in an effort to identify, prevent and mitigate adverse human rights impacts related to our products and services. We aim to ensure that we are not complicit in human rights abuses. We comply with laws and regulations that relate to our business, while seeking to honor internationally recognized human rights principles.
Our commitments to human rights are detailed in the AT&T Human Rights Policy. These include:
- We respect and promote human rights in our operations and with stakeholders, including users, employees and suppliers.
- We respect and protect our users’ right to privacy and freedom of expression.
- We commit to monitor the implementation of the AT&T Human Rights Policy through AT&T’s Human Rights Committee.
- We report on our human rights progress in AT&T’s annual Corporate Social Responsibility update.
The AT&T Human Rights Policy is informed by internationally recognized organizations such as the United Nations (U.N.) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
We post the AT&T Human Rights Policy online and publicize it in a variety of ways, such as appearances at public events or communications with policymakers. It is available to our employees, particularly those most likely to interact with human rights issues. We also communicate the policy to our suppliers; it is posted on the AT&T Supplier Portal and referenced in our Principles of Conduct for Suppliers, along with other policies and materials that explain our approach to supply chain sustainability.
AT&T is also part of the Business Coalition for the Equality Act – a group of leading U.S. employers that support the addition of LGBTQ+ individuals to the list of groups afforded basic protections under U.S. federal law. And we endorse the U.N. Standards of Conduct for Business, which offer a holistic framework of best practices to help combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Our codes of conduct prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and/or gender expression. We seek suppliers who share our commitments to ethical and sustainable business practices, human rights (including labor rights), and diversity.
Our Senior Vice President for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), who is also our Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), is responsible for overseeing the AT&T Human Rights Policy. The CSO reports several times a year on CSR issues – including human rights – to the Public Policy and Corporate Reputation Committee of the AT&T Board of Directors. Our CSO also regularly convenes the CSR Governance Council, composed of senior executives and officers from across the company who are responsible for the business areas most linked to our most important environment, social and governance (ESG) issues. The AT&T Human Rights Committee, also composed of senior executives from across the business, is responsible for implementing the AT&T Human Rights Policy throughout our operations and conducting related due diligence – including regular reviews for risk mapping of potential risks and issues.
Grievance Mechanisms and Remedy
The importance of ethics and due diligence in the development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications cannot be overstated. Our AI Guiding Principles require that we assess risks that these applications may present with regard to customer privacy and other factors. We have a cross-functional team dedicated to developing an internal set of operating guidelines, compliance tools and governance mechanisms to support adherence to these principles. Additionally, we conduct a robust privacy and cybersecurity review when developing new products or services and entering new markets.
We also conduct human rights due diligence that evolves with our business. In 2020, our newly established AT&T Online Safety Committee launched an initiative to analyze companywide digital safety efforts and complete the UNICEF Mobile Operator Child Rights Self-Impact Assessment Tool. Read more in our Safeguarding Children issue brief.
Supporting Human Rights
Our approach to human rights includes the following:
We respect and protect our users’ right to privacy. Protecting our users’ privacy is fundamental to the way we do business. We implement protections with respect to personal information.
Through AT&T’s Privacy Policies, we give users fair and understandable notice of the types of information we might collect, how and with whom that information may be shared, how it may be used and how it will be protected. We strive to provide our users with easily understood tools that will allow them to exercise meaningful control over how their data is used. To learn more, see our Privacy issue brief.
Freedom of Expression
We believe that the freedom to access information, the freedom to communicate and respect for privacy are essential to the advancement of human potential. At its most basic level, the infrastructure we build and operate is part of a global platform that enables us to connect and communicate. Through our services and platforms, we make it possible for our users to hold and share opinions freely, seek out others’ ideas, and communicate their own. This exchange of information and ideas is at the very core of what we do as a company.
We respect and protect the freedom of expression of our users. We promote our users’ right to hold and freely share opinions and access a full range of ideas and information. We believe restrictions on lawful freedom of expression using communications services and the internet will diminish their usefulness, dampen the exchange of ideas and reduce innovation and commercial opportunities.
AT&T does not receive government orders to shut down or restrict access to communications networks or services. If we received such a request, we would evaluate its legality and strive to minimize any impact on customers’ freedom of expression. Such incidents would be disclosed in our semiannual Transparency Report, consistent with the requirements of applicable licenses and local laws.
In countries outside the United States where AT&T provides telecommunications and internet access service, we may receive legal demands from governments to block access to certain websites in their countries or to provide customer information. We do not take action to respond to requests to block websites or to access customer information coming from any foreign or domestic individuals, private entities or self-regulatory bodies unless we receive a valid legal demand. We report on these demands in our Transparency Report.
We also seek to protect our users, particularly children, from harmful content by providing online safety tools for parents and guardians and by working with organizations dedicated to online safety.
Additionally, we recognize that our services play a role in promoting human rights around the world. We developed a program in accordance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child that supports unaccompanied migrant children fleeing violence in their home countries by providing free telephone calls to let family at home know they are safe.
Freedom of the Press
The role of a free press is fundamental to ensuring the security of human rights. At AT&T, we consider the commitment to a free press to be a core value that is central to our mission. We will safeguard editorial independence, and we will support efforts to ensure and advance freedom of expression across our platforms around the world. Learn more in our Media Pluralism, Ethics & Journalistic Integrity issue brief.
Human Rights in the Supply Chain
AT&T is committed to conducting business with integrity and ethics, with an emphasis on environmental, social and corporate governance. As part of our business, suppliers are held accountable to the standards we expect from our own employees. We regularly train our AT&T sourcing managers on the principles of sustainability and diversity, which include human rights standards. We have implemented sustainability-focused contract clauses that specifically highlight our relevant policies (such as our codes of conduct and the AT&T Human Rights Policy) and obligate suppliers to adhere to programs in a manner consistent with these policies.
Our Principles of Conduct for Suppliers also confirm our expectations that the products we sell will not contain conflict minerals that directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups. We conduct periodic reviews, audits and assessments to evaluate suppliers on their sustainability efforts based on survey responses that include questions about their human rights practices. For more information on human rights in the supply chain, please visit our Responsible Supply Chain issue brief.
We are committed to working with governments, industry, customers and civil society to promote human rights around the world in areas associated with our operations. We also believe these issues merit a society-wide conversation, so we regularly engage with stakeholders to explain our point of view, share best practices and learn from our peers.
We engage with groups such as:
- United Nations Global Compact (UNGC): AT&T was the first U.S.-based telecommunications service provider to become a signatory of the UNGC and commit to its voluntary framework of principles related to human rights and environmental sustainability. We publish an annual Communication on Progress, detailing our managerial approach to UNGC focus areas.
- Freedom Online Coalition: AT&T participates in the Advisory Network of the Freedom Online Coalition, a group of governments that have committed to working together to support internet freedom and protect fundamental human rights – free expression, free association, free assembly and privacy online – worldwide. The Advisory Network provides input to the Freedom Online Coalition’s Program of Action and joint statements on internet freedom issues.
- BSR Human Rights Working Group (HRWG): AT&T is a member of BSR’s HRWG, which was created to develop a safe space for a cross-sector group of companies to openly share best practices, challenges, questions and experiences around implementing the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
- Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT): AT&T is an active supporter of CDT. The company regularly participates in CDT’s free expression working group as well as a number of its other formal and informal working groups addressing issues that affect human rights and freedom of expression on the internet.
- Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI): Since 2012, AT&T has participated in GeSI’s Human Rights Working Group to pursue a practical means of implementing the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights across the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, which includes internet providers, telecoms and manufacturers. The working group is also coordinating GeSI’s involvement in the European Commission’s project to develop human rights guidance for the ICT sector.
- Internet Governance Forum (IGF): AT&T regularly attends IGF meetings, actively participating in the multi-stakeholder process that has historically governed the internet. During these meetings, the company advocates against local storage mandates and other impediments to the free flow of information.
- Tech Against Trafficking: AT&T is collaborating with other tech and telecom companies to jointly leverage our technology to prevent human trafficking and support survivors.
- GSMA: AT&T participates in GSMA’s Sustainability Network to address salient human rights issues for mobile operators throughout their value chains. The network discusses relevant issues and shares practical guidance for companies responding to human rights issues.
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