Letter from the Chair

Dear reader of this letter

Who could have imagined the changes 2020 would bring? During the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, Telenor faced a number of challenges and decisions as societies across markets entered lockdown and 18.000 Telenor employees were moved to home office almost overnight. Telenor is accountable for critical infrastructure which proved to be pivotal to keep businesses, schools, and societies in general running. A priority for the board has been to support and work with Telenor’s management to balance short-term crisis management with the long-term implications. As in any crisis there are both opportunities and pitfalls, and there are lessons to be learned.  The interaction and dynamics between the board and management become even more important in such situations. My assessment is that this has worked well.

The digital quantum leap societies and Telenor have taken in 2020 is important, and digitalising both customer journeys and internal processes must continue. 2020 has yielded important lessons on how new ways of working can improve organisational design, decision making processes, and the way projects are run. The negative aspects of the pandemic must also be taken into account, including the long-lasting effects on employee fatigue and motivation and leaders being physically distant from their people and not able to follow up and support in an optimal way.  Risk management in this regard is a focus area for the board.

Connectivity and advanced technology are becoming available for ever more people. Boundaries between connectivity, services and to some extent hardware are being blurred and the differences between telecom companies, IT companies and system integrators will diminish. As a result, integrated business models and partnerships are likely to proliferate. The immense digitalisation we are seeing will require a deep and trusted relationship with customers, which will be won by helping customers realise the benefits of these new opportunities. This drives benefits of scale as globalisation drives a convergence in customer demands and behaviours across borders. 2020 has shown that Telenor is in a position of strength to capture new growth opportunities, both organic and in-organic. As we have demonstrated over the last years, the board is looking at both options.

Telenor drives change by lifting standards across markets and leveraging connectivity to empower societies. Climate is a key part of it, and in 2020 Telenor made significant progress in setting ambitious targets and executing on plans to achieve them. Raising business standards requires constant attention, and during the pandemic new ways of working have been key to uphold the focus in this area. Some markets where Telenor operate have a complex business environment, and the mandatory online dilemma training for all employees as part of the yearly signing of the Code of Conduct, is an important component in ensuring that the company maintains a high standard across all markets. I am pleased to see a completion rate in 2020 of close to 100 percent.

At the time of writing, the situation in Myanmar has become deeply concerning and we are facing challenging dilemmas. Our focus is directed at the safety of our employees and the support to customers and society in trying times.  The board is monitoring the situation closely, with the hope of a return to peace and democracy.

I will end this letter with a sincere thank you to all Telenor employees who have stood up and worked hard to keep operations running and supporting customers and societies, and for their willingness to adapt through accelerated digitalisation. The performance in 2020 has strengthened Telenor and further build a solid foundation for capturing opportunities ahead.

– Gunn Wærsted

Download Full 2020 Annual Report here