With roots tracing back to 1846, BT is the oldest communications company worldwide. Headquartered in the UK, it served over 14 million households in 2020. BT is also the leading business communications provider in the UK through its Enterprise unit and supports the country’s telecommunications infrastructure through its subsidiary Openreach. BT provides communications services to multinationals across 180 countries.
BT contributes to digital access for vulnerable groups through its BT Home Essentials programme, which provides discounted broadband services and phone plans to low-income households. The company also partners with the non-profit Code First Girls, which provides free computer programming courses in the UK, to expand digital opportunities for women and girls. Furthermore, BT demonstrates best practice in its approach to making technology accessible for users with disabilities, including developing hearing aid compatible products, committing to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and soliciting feedback from its customer inclusion panel. Alongside this, the company discloses the number of employees with disabilities and encourages accessibility in its offices through disability workplace assessments. BT discloses income taxes paid and employment in its main countries of operations and reports on its indirect economic impacts.
Through its Skills for Tomorrow programme, BT contributes to digital literacy and intermediate digital skills development. It provides webinars on a range of digital topics to the general public, organising trainings for over three million teachers, and holding workshops for small business owners. Additionally, through its subsidiary Openreach, the company supported low-income households in acquiring digital literacy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. BT also supported school connectivity during this time by providing students free internet access.
BT demonstrates best practice by producing a transparency report detailing the number of government requests for information. The company also has initiatives contributing to child online safety and partners with third parties in this area.
BT demonstrates best practice in its support for open standards, with a high-level commitment as well as projects in this area. Furthermore, it discloses its research and development (R&D) locations and has a public commitment to ensure ethical considerations in its R&D activities. The company also collaborates with universities on both open source projects and sustainability issues and uses the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a monitoring framework.
BT has the opportunity to disclose more information on its Home Essentials programme and partnership with Code First Girls, including its financial and in-kind contribution and the programme participation metrics. The company can also carry out impact assessments of both programmes. Additionally, BT has the opportunity to clearly disclose how its economic value is distributed among stakeholders.
The company can consider third-party impact assessments for its digital skills programmes. It can also consider continuing with its COVID-19 interventions for digital literacy and school connectivity after the pandemic.
BT has the opportunity to disclose more details on its high-level oversight of cybersecurity. The company can also increase transparency by publishing the number of data breaches and making a clear, high-level policy commitment to child online protection.
The company can support social and non-profit start-ups and develop support for entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups. BT can also report the number of its women employees engaged in technical roles, and disclose the ethical principles it commits to in its R&D, including its artificial intelligence (AI) activities.
Core social indicators
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.
BT has a commitment on respecting human rights. It also has grievance mechanisms for both workers and external stakeholders to raise human rights complaints and concerns. However, BT’s commitment to respect the ILO core labour rights can be stronger. For example, the company does not provide a policy statement committing to respect the ILO labour fundamentals, such as freedom of association and collective bargaining. The company does not disclose a process to identify and assess the salient human rights risks in its own operations and in its business relationships. But it does disclose a specific example of how it has taken action to address forced labour in its supply chain.
BT publicly commits to respecting the health and safety of workers. The company also places health and safety expectations on its business relationships and monitors their performance. However, BT does not specify that workers are not required to work more than 60 hours a week including overtime, and it does not report the percentage of workers that are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Moreover, the company does not disclose its commitment towards paying its workers a living wage. In reference to workforce diversity, BT discloses a breakdown by gender, age and ethnicity within each employee category for its operations in the UK but not globally. While BT has at least 30% women on the board, it does not publicly commit to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
BT includes anti-bribery and anti-corruption clauses in its contracts with business relationships. It also has a confidential and anonymous channel accessible to all stakeholders to raise bribery and corruption concerns and complaints. However, the company does not describe how it works to identify bribery and corruption risks and impacts in its own operations. BT has a global tax strategy and reports income tax payments for 13 of its operational markets but does not disclose this for all of its tax jurisdictions. In relation to lobbying and political engagement, the company states that it does not make political contributions. However, it does not disclose its lobbying expenditures.