Founded in 1991, Vodafone is a UK-headquartered mobile, broadband and television services provider. It operates mobile networks in 22 countries across Africa, Asia and Europe, and provides services in another 49 countries in partnership with other operators. The company also provides fixed broadband services in 17 markets. Vodafone had 315 million mobile customers and 28 million fixed broadband customers at the end of March 2021.
Vodafone donated free data to customers with disabilities during the COVID-19 lockdown period in South Africa. It further demonstrates its commitment to accessibility by offering products that accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. Through its Mum and Baby initiative, the company supports digital inclusivity for women by enabling a free mobile health service for parents and caregivers. It also publishes a third-party impact assessment of this initiative. Additionally, Vodafone follows best practice by disclosing its country-by-country taxes and employment.
One of the programmes through which Vodafone contributes to basic digital skills development is Coding for Tomorrow. Through this project, the company has contributed to training 119,500 students and teachers in Germany in using digital technologies. Through its initiative Instant Network Schools, delivered in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Vodafone provides refugees, host communities and their teachers access to digital learning content and the internet in several African countries.
Vodafone demonstrates high-level commitment and accountability for cybersecurity. The company explains how it manages information security in practice. It also provides a copy of its internationally recognised certificate for information security management and reports data breaches. The company also demonstrates best practice by reporting country-by-country government requests for user information. Additionally, Vodafone has integrated a commitment to child online protection into its human rights policy. It implements this commitment by reporting how it works with authorities and third parties to fight child online abuse, and how it controls online content that is sensitive to children. It also assesses its approach to children’s rights using the Child Rights Education Toolkit developed by UNICEF.
Vodafone has committed to delivering Europe’s first commercial network using Open RAN (Radio Access Network). It also has a commitment to open innovation, which it demonstrates by partnering with universities on research focused on emerging technologies, predicting health outcomes with the support of big data, and artificial intelligence (AI). Furthermore, it supports the start-up community by operating business hubs and accelerators. Vodafone is committed to reducing its environmental footprint and discloses its carbon emissions across all scopes. The company also reports the number of women engineers it employs, and it uses a framework that ensures the company upholds human rights while working with AI technologies.
Vodafone can expand its efforts in increasing universal and affordable access to digital technologies by setting up a dedicated programme that goes beyond the support provided by the company during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company can also disclose the financial or in-kind resources it contributes to the Mum and Baby initiative. Additionally, next to offering products designed for people with disabilities, Vodafone can also report how it goes about integrating accessible design principles into its product design process. The company can also calculate the indirect economic impacts it achieves in the markets where it operates.
Vodafone has an opportunity to strengthen its contribution to digital skills development through programmes dedicated to the advancement of intermediate and technical digital skills. It can also provide further information about its current programmes in this area, specifically its financial and in-kind contribution to these programmes and the programme impacts.
Apart from participating in projects that advance open standards, Vodafone can adopt a high-level commitment to open source innovation that applies across the entire group. Furthermore, the company has an opportunity to demonstrate how it applies ethics in its research and development (R&D) activities that go beyond the use of AI.
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.
Vodafone commits to respecting human rights and the ILO core labour rights. However, the company does not clearly disclose whether it also requires its business relationships to respect all of the ILO core labour rights, in particular the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Vodafone has a grievance mechanism accessible to both workers and external stakeholders to raise human rights concerns and complaints. Additionally, the company provides information on topic-specific impact assessments and audits. Nevertheless, it does not disclose a process to identify, assess and take action on the salient human rights risks in its own operations and in its business relationships. Vodafone describes the stakeholders it engages with in general, but it does not specify whether it engages with stakeholders whose human rights could be affected by its activities.
Vodafone publicly commits to respecting the health and safety of workers in a policy statement. It also places health and safety requirements on its business relationships and monitors their performance. The company also provides the proportion of its employees covered by collective bargaining agreements. Vodafone does not disclose a policy commitment stating that it does not require workers to work more than the regular and overtime hours, and it does not explicitly state whether it requires its business relationships to make this commitment. It does, however, commit to paying its workers a living wage and describes how it determines a living wage in the regions where it operates. The company publicly commits to gender equality and women’s empowerment and has time-bound targets to achieve this. In relation to workforce diversity, the company provides a breakdown of employees in different employee categories by gender. However, it does not disclose this information against any other indicators of diversity per employee category.
Vodafone has a policy prohibiting bribery and corruption and takes steps to identify and address bribery and corruption. It also includes anti-bribery and anti-corruption clauses in contracts with its business relationships. The company discloses a global tax strategy and provides information about its income tax payments for all its individual tax jurisdictions. Vodafone states that it does not make political contributions, but it does not disclose its overall approach to lobbying and political engagement, nor its lobbying expenditures.