Founded in 1992 as the mobile and international operations arm of Telekom Malaysia, the company rebranded as Axiata in 2008 after demerging. Axiata’s subsidiaries provide telecommunication, financial and advertising services to over 160 million customers across six markets in Asia.
Axiata sets a leading example in its disclosure of a country-by-country breakdown of its tax payments, employment figures as well as indirect impacts across all its areas of operation. Next to this, Axiata has an inclusive approach to providing universal and affordable access to digital technology. It has well-established programmes providing free and subsidised services to rural and poor communities, women and girls and people with disabilities. For example, Axiata provided free internet access and content benefitting more than 1,500 students. The company also provided free internet access to rural communities reaching over 170,000 beneficiaries.
Axiata has programmes that span across all levels of digital skills development. It has a Digital Literacy and Internet Safety Program, provided through its subsidiary Smart, in collaboration with the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Youth and Sport to high school learners in Cambodia. The programme raises awareness on the use of digital tools for children, adolescents and even parents, and it has successfully provided over 1500 high school students with practical information on digital literacy and online safety.
Axiata has several initiatives in place to support the tech start-up ecosystem. It has four venture capital funds investing across Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia and has funded 45 digital start-ups and ventures across these countries. Axiata also provides support to start-ups through accelerators, incubators, or innovation labs. Next to this, the company is committed to reducing the environmental footprint of its operations and states its commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Axiata operates several initiatives enabling inclusive access to digital technologies. However, it can disclose more information on these initiatives, such as its financial and in-kind contributions and the number of beneficiaries. The company could also report the number of people with disabilities it employs and how it involves people with disabilities in its product design.
The company has an opportunity to provide more details about its digital skills programmes. Specifically, it can report the financial and in-kind contributions it makes towards these programmes and the number of programme beneficiaries. The company can also conduct an impact assessment to evaluate the long-term sustainability of its programmes.
While Axiata clearly describes its approach to information security management and monitoring, it could also report the number of data breaches it experiences. Furthermore, the company can publish its international information management security certification and a transparency report detailing the number of government requests for data that it receives per country of operation. There is limited evidence of Axiata’s efforts for child online safety.
There is limited evidence of Axiata’s support for open source initiatives and standards, source code and data sharing, or partnership with researchers on sustainability issues. The company also does not provide evidence of its efforts to diversify its tech workforce or to consider ethics in its research and development (R&D) activities.
Core Social Assessment
The core social indicators assess societal expectations of business conduct that companies should meet if they aspire to be part of a system transformation that leaves no one behind.
Axiata has a grievance mechanism accessible to workers and external stakeholders to raise human rights concerns and complaints. The company also has a publicly available policy statement that expects its business relationships to commit to respecting the ILO core labour rights. Additionally, it discloses the categories of stakeholders whose human rights have been or may be affected by its activities. However, Axiata does not have a publicly available policy statement regarding its own commitment to respect human rights and to respect the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining and freedom from child labour and forced labour, despite being a signatory of the UN Global Compact (UNGC) since August 2021. Furthermore, the company does not disclose how it identifies, assesses and acts on the salient human rights risks associated with its own operations and with its business relationships.
Axiata publicly commits to, and expects its business relationships to commit to, respecting workers’ health and safety. However, the company does not disclose quantitative health and safety information. The company also does not disclose a policy commitment stating that it does not require workers to work more than regular and overtime hours. Additionally, Axiata does not disclose if it pays all its workers a living wage or provide a time-bound target to achieve this. Also, the company does not disclose the percentage of its workforce covered by collective bargaining agreements. Axiata commits to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, but it does not set time-bound targets on the subject. The company also discloses the gender distribution of its overall workforce and leadership positions. However, it can improve its reporting on other indicators of diversity, such as number of employees by age group per employee category. It can also increase the number of women in its highest governance body.
Axiata has a policy prohibiting bribery and corruption, and it includes anti-bribery and anti-corruption clauses in its business relationship contracts. Furthermore, the company takes steps to identify and address bribery and corruption and has a grievance mechanism for stakeholders to raise concerns and complaints on the topic. Axiata does not disclose a global tax strategy. The company discloses that it does not make political contributions. However, it does not disclose its approach to lobbying and political engagement, nor its expenditure on lobbying activities.