Telenor Group’s strategic focus on the SDGs and Reduced Inequalities

Head of Group Sustainability Mai Oldgard shares her thoughts on the new direction and how it will change the way we manage risk, create digital services designed to empower societies and maintain focus on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Written: Dec 2016

Reading Time: 5 minutes

We are setting a new direction for how we operate as a responsible business. These changes will enable us to drive four outcomes for 2020 specifically designed to reduce inequality across all the communities we serve.

Our vision will always be the same

The world’s best companies do more than just make profits. They help solve society’s problems. And they do so sustainably, honestly, openly – and with genuine care for humanity and the planet.

At Telenor, we’re driven by a powerful vision: empower societies. It’s why we exist. Connected societies are empowered societies. The Internet is the basis upon which we integrate the world to the opportunities that await them, advancing the way we live, work, learn, share, and solve global challenges for the next generation, and the generations that follow.

Yet we need to do more. Here’s why and how


Responsible business conduct has always played a huge role in our operations, yet three big shifts are driving our new direction
1: The first is the changing way we are managing risk. Telenor shapes business standards in many of the markets we serve. It’s an inseparable part of being a responsible operator in these countries, and placing us among the forerunners in mitigating corruption, human rights risks, and poor working conditions amongst suppliers. We manage these as independent risks; yet increasingly we’re setting operating standards for responsible business conduct across borders, as well as within them.

As a result, in 2017 we will start to integrate our operating principles for responsible business conduct more holistically across everything we do as a business — both for ourselves and our broader ecosystem.

2: The second lies in our ambitions as a digital service provider. It’s not enough to enable Internet access: we want everyone to be able to leverage its benefits. This includes meaningful solutions that can address social, economic and environmental problems, close the inequality gap, and empower societies. Our customers are demanding it, our society needs it, and our future as a company depends on it.

As a  result, in 2017 we will accelerate our ability to create and scale digital services designed to empower societies. These will be focused on increasing access to digital identity, raising skills and knowledge, growing employment and income, and  driving economic growth.

3: The third is the broader global imperative for a sustainable future. Last year, the United Nations including 193 world leaders agreed to adopt a collective set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. This move accelerated expectations for private sector leaders to join the international community in taking meaningful action. Sigve Brekke publicly pledged Telenor’s support for this agenda, spreading the word to more than 100 million customers, partners and friends.

In 2017, we will start to align our agenda directly with that of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Our business already supports all these Goals, but yielding greater impact will require us to better focus our priorities. An assessment of our activities reveals one Goal in particular where our contribution delivers the most impact: Reduced Inequalities.


This is because for the disempowered, the mobile internet can be a way out of poverty and the means to better education, health, economic development and security. From the access we provide to the services we deliver and enable, reducing inequality is what Telenor does best. We will prioritise our activities and further optimise our partnerships in 2017 against this goal.

To underscore our commitment, we commissioned KPMG to quantify exactly how Telenor has contributed to the societies we serve. Our company has contributed $20.3 billion in economic growth, with nearly a third  the result of greater digital access to populations who might otherwise have been left behind. More findings can be found in Telenor’s Global Impact Report 2016 , and they are the start of a conversation on how we together will realise the promise of a digital future for everyone.

4 key outcomes by 2020

reduced-inequalityAchieving global impact is nothing without meaningful, accountable targets for the future. Given Telenor’s objective to reach 300 million customers across all our 13 markets, we’ve identified four bold actions that will advance progress as part of our new sustainability direction, and support the global outcome of Reduced Inequalities.

1: We will support income growth for poor and disenfranchised populations through stimulating ecosystem employment. The KPMG report shows that for every $1 that Telenor delivers to local economies as a direct result of our operations, we generate an additional $1.9 across the wider global economy. For every 1 job that Telenor creates directly, an additional 33 jobs are created via indirect and induced means. Based on the KPMG findings, Telenor created a total of 1.2 million jobs in 2015 directly and indirectly in this way. This has resulted in reduced poverty, greater investments in local businesses, and improved quality of life in every market we operate.

Our outcome for 2020 will be to continue to lift these populations by stimulating ecosystem development and thereby creating job opportunities beyond what we do today.

2: We will leverage digital services and connectivity in innovative ways to address social and economic challenges. This begins by giving people a legal identity. The World Bank estimates that nearly 2.4 billion people worldwide lack this basic right. A quarter of these are children, often comprising the poorest members of society. As a result, they are often excluded from school, healthcare, welfare and banking services. They are also more vulnerable to trafficking, child labour abuses, forced marriages, and other risks.

Our outcome for 2020 will be the provision of mobile birth registrations for these communities, and registering 7 million by 2020. It is the first step in keeping them safe, enabling access to basic social services, and ultimately participating and thriving in a modern digital society.

3: We will create opportunities for meaningful and safe digital participation for everyone. This commitment builds on Telenor’s existing efforts for a safer internet by scaling those aspects that have enabled the most progress, as well as deepening and broadening the curriculum.

Our outcome for 2020 will be four million children made aware and trained on online safety, and empowered to make the right decisions on how to engage on the internet confidently and responsibly.

4: We will continue to raise operating standards in line with international best practices, and improve working conditions through supply chain sustainability. We require all our suppliers to sign contractually binding agreements ensuring responsible business conduct. Yet we’ve achieved exponential progress when we’ve trained our suppliers to train their employers and partners on these same best practices.

Our outcome for 2020 is 100,000 hours of training on work-related safety and labour standards for supply chain workers around the world. The result enables people everywhere to benefit from companies with high standards of labour rights and working conditions.

Toward a new digital future

The scale of opportunities and challenges for our society will only widen as digitisation continues to impact every market, every business and every community.  We are committed to continue making investments that will unleash this potential for everyone.

This isn’t charity. It’s a business strategy with sustainability at its core. The result will enable us to attract the best minds, be agile, create our future together with the people we serve, and grow.