- Telenor established a group-wide project on health, safety, security and environment as a consequence of the Bangladesh case, where unacceptable working conditions at some of Grameenphone's suppliers were documented. We have now assessed, evaluated and addressed HSSE conditions in our own companies and their suppliers. The project now enters a new phase of compliance control, follow up activities and further measures to improve routines and practices - which is a continuous process. It has been a pleasure to see the commitment among our employees, and the will among our suppliers to carry out the changes," says President and CEO in Telenor Jon Fredrik Baksaas.
Current status of the Telenor HSSE project
The work that Telenor has initiated to enhance the HSSE-standard throughout the value chain follows three main principles: Continuous improvement, risk based approach, and control according to local law and international conventions. Telenor has chosen Det Norske Veritas (DNV) as advisor for the project, providing assistance and competence connected to the formal guidelines and follow-up of suppliers.
Telenor has among other things conducted HSSE workshops in Bangladesh with more than 165 external participants from Grameenphone suppliers. Telenor has visited suppliers 382 times without warning. Additionally, more than 800 suppliers from around the world have been asked to conduct a self assessment about their own HSSE standards and practices. The work has followed a methodology of prioritising suppliers that represent the highest risk.
Improved environmental practices in Bangladesh
In May this year, evidence of hazardous health and environmental conditions was documented at factories belonging to Grameenphone's five suppliers of mobile phone masts in Bangladesh: Concrete & Steel Technologies Ltd, Brothers Fabrication Engineering Ltd, Mak International, Confidence Steel Ltd, Mizan Hatim Engineering Co. Ltd. Telenor commissioned a systematic, external investigation into conditions at the five sites in an effort to improve conditions there.
Det Norske Veritas has issued a report based on its analysis of the potential risks to workers and the environment. The conditions were better than expected at an earlier stage. The measurements show limited contamination to the external environment. Telenor has now come a long way towards improving the conditions pointed out by Det Norske Veritas.
Compensation for occupational accidents
Although not being directly responsible for occupational accidents among employees at suppliers and subcontractors, Telenor has involved itself in compensation questions. Telenor has initiated internal work to outline a common policy within the Telenor group related to such issues.
The guidelines, that are being established in connection with Telenor's ongoing health, safety, security and environment activities, will also take this into account.
Preventing and creating alternatives to underage labour
Child labour is a major social challenge in Bangladesh. Earlier this year, Telenor was made aware of instances of minors involved in hazardous and illegal labour at Grameenphone's suppliers. Telenor has now come far in establishing alternatives to the children and their families, preventing underage labour.
"A big dilemma in Bangladesh is that children often contribute to the family economy to a substantial degree. Almost half of the population lives below the poverty limit, and statistics show that among children between five and fourteen years who are involved in labour, 38 percent are prevented from going to school at all. Telenor wants to contribute to giving more of these children the opportunity to get education and work related training - while maintaining a stable income for the family," says Baksaas.
Telenor has so far initiated a five year project aiming at creating appropriate alternatives to hazardous child labour. In cooperation with local experts and international and non-governmental organisations, Telenor shall create a model for providing work related training to young people. This measure will be directed towards geographical areas with businesses that potentially may attract child labour. Telenor expects to have chosen partners within the first half of 2009, and will get back with more detailed information then.
› More about child labour alternativesTelenor ranked number one on Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes
Telenor was named the top performing mobile operator on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes for the second consecutive year. The index ranked 17 mobile communications companies based on their performance across economic, environmental and social criteria. The evaluation consists of an acknowledged and comprehensive annual analysis of trends concerning sustainability and is based on extensive internal and external documentation. Telenor earned its high position on DJSI in spite of the conditions revealed in Bangladesh.
The DJSI report indicated that Telenor still has room for improvement in order to ensure sustainability along the entire value chain, with a score of 51 percent (compared to an industry average of 49 percent) as regards standards for suppliers. In connection with preparation of the report, extensive information was provided in advance concerning the unacceptable working conditions that were exposed in Bangladesh in spring 2008; along with details about the comprehensive measures Telenor has implemented in order to improve these conditions.
Challenges and continuous improvement
During 2008, Telenor has learned a lot about how to ensure compliance with the company's strict requirements on health, safety, security and environment (HSSE) throughout the value chain. In a large global company, new challenges will always arise. The strengthened focus on HSSE will therefore be a continuous process.
"Through the various measures that Telenor has implemented since May this year, it has become evident that the work with HSSE is a continuous process. Some of the changes are realised quickly, others take more time to implement. Keeping that in mind, Telenor cannot guarantee that unfortunate and unacceptable incidents will occur in the future. We can, however, guarantee that we will continue to work focused and systematically to further improve working conditions in our companies and our suppliers," says Baksaas.
One of the lessons learnt is that moving mindsets is more important and difficult than providing safety equipment, improving routines or arranging courses for suppliers. Making people understand the importance and value of working with HSSE is the first and most important step towards enhanced standards. With this in mind, Telenor has carried out HSSE-seminars in all companies and for several of the suppliers in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
"We are a different company at the end of 2008, compared to the beginning of this year. We have made serious efforts on improving conditions, but we will continue to do more. Telenor has therefore taken the initiative to a large meeting with leading Norwegian international corporations to address matters of corporate responsibility," says Baksaas.
Further information about the HSSE project in Telenor:Working Conditions in Bangladesh> Compensation issues
> Improved practices> The HSSE project> The DJSI ranking
Download DNV report (PDF)
Esben Tuman, Vice President Communications, Telenor Asia,
Phone: (+47) 905 08 400, E-mail: email@example.com
Ingrid Schiefloe, Vice President Communications, Telenor ASA Phone:
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