Telkom is headquartered in South Africa and was established as the Department of Posts and Telecommunications with the first telegraph in 1895. In 1991, the department was split and Telkom was founded. The company provides telecommunications services to over 15 million subscribers in South Africa as of April 2021.
Telkom’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic included offering reduced prices, increased connection speeds and payment holidays to customers. It also offered free access to its marketplace and desktop apps to small- and medium-sized enterprises. The company demonstrates best practice by disclosing the number of its employees with disabilities.
The company partnered with Lightbulb, an education platform, helping over 7,000 students access educational materials online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 3,000 students participated in the virtual classes hosted by the Telkom Foundation.
Telkom’s IT Steering Committee, which sits above its executive board, is responsible for cybersecurity oversight and reporting. In addition, the company considers cybersecurity a material topic and has a publicly available information security management certificate.
Telkom supports the tech innovation ecosystem through venture capital investments and its subsidiary BCX’s innovation programme that provides incubator and accelerator support to start-ups. Furthermore, the company funds entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups in low-income areas of South Africa. It has a commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and uses the goals as a framework to set its sustainable development targets.
Apart from COVID-19 interventions, little evidence was found regarding Telkom’s activities to make digital technologies affordable and accessible for vulnerable groups on an ongoing basis. The company can more clearly demonstrate how it supports digital opportunities for women and girls, and how it makes digital products accessible for people with disabilities.
The company can disclose how it monitors, remedies and reports on security incidents. It should also make a high-level commitment to child online protection and support initiatives that address the issue.
Little evidence was found of Telkom’s activities relating to open, inclusive and ethical innovation. The company has an opportunity to report on initiatives in this area. It can further enhance transparency by disclosing the number of women it employs in technical roles, and how it considers ethics in its research and development (R&D) 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.
Telkom commits to respecting human rights and the ILO core labour rights. However, it does not have a publicly available policy statement that expects its business relationships to commit to respecting the ILO core labour rights. Furthermore, the company does not describe a process to identify, assess and take action on salient human rights risks associated with its own operations and with its business relationships. Telkom has a grievance mechanism for workers to raise human rights concerns and complaints. However, it is unclear if this mechanism is accessible to external stakeholders.
Telkom states that it strives to create a safe and healthy work environment. However, it does not have a publicly available policy statement committing to respect the health and safety of workers. Nor does it expect its business relationships to commit to respecting workers’ health and safety. While the company discloses the proportion of its permanent employees that are members of a trade union, it does not disclose the proportion of its total workforce covered by collective bargaining agreements. In relation to workforce diversity, Telkom provides a breakdown of employees in different employee categories by gender. However, it does not disclose information against any other indicators of diversity per employee category.
Telkom does not disclose any relevant information in relation to tax, such as a global tax strategy or income tax payments in individual tax jurisdictions. Similarly, the company does not disclose its approach to lobbying and political engagement. It has no public statement indicating that it does not make political contributions, and it does not disclose its lobbying expenditures. Telkom does include anti-corruption and anti-bribery clauses in its contracts with business relationship, but it does not have a publicly available policy statement prohibiting bribery and corruption.