Frequently asked questions

Responsible business at BT

What does BT mean by 'responsible' business?

It's not just about going 'green' or cutting down on waste, though those things are important. At BT, we think it's mainly about creating a business model that supports and maintains a respectful attitude to both people and places - whether we are talking about your own staff, your community or the planet at large.

Why do it? Particularly now, when we are facing tough economic times?

In a time of economic uncertainty, responsible business practices are more important than ever. Employees and customers alike are becoming increasingly aware of the ethical issues surrounding business. Suppliers, partners and potential customers are becoming just as likely to ask to see your environmental policy as they are your pricelist.

At BT, we also find that it saves us money. The three-year energy-saving campaign we launched in 2008 will save £15 million and prevent the emission of 75,000 tonnes of CO2.

And it reduces the risks we face. To protect our reputation, for example, we ask our suppliers to meet or exceed standards in areas including human rights and protection of the environment.

What is BT's Corporate Responsibility strategy?

Our strategy is to grow our business profitably and sustainably by providing services and products that benefit our customers, society and the environment. Our business and our services also have environmental and social impacts and have programmes to reduce these. For example, we are committed to doing business in an ethical way, so we have a statement of business practice that we follow called 'The Way We Work' 

What exactly does BT do in the Corporate Responsibility area?

Our activities span the full breadth of the Corporate Responsibility spectrum - community involvement, care for the environment, workforce diversity and so on - and apply around the world.

Our community investments are focused on communications, education and children - areas with clear connections to BT's core business.

How is Corporate Responsibility run at BT?

Four leadership teams and an independent advisory panel play central roles in keeping us on track.

We have real board-level engagement in the issues. Our chairman, Sir Michael Rake, chairs the board-level committee that oversees our Corporate Responsibility strategies, for example.

In addition, we have a very strong corporate communication programme that works at all levels.

For example, we have made energy and climate change an adjudication criterion in our procurement processes. Suppliers now know that their climate change strategies are a weighted consideration in determining who will win a contract. We are always trying to embed these strategies into our core business processes.

Protecting our environment

What is BT doing to reduce its carbon footprint?

Our carbon footprint is dominated by the amount of electricity we use - in particular, by that used to run our network and data centres. The oil and gas we use to heat offices, the fuel used by our vehicles and business travel also make big contributions - but electricity consumption is the main contributor.

To help address the problem, we decided to get as much electricity as we can from renewable sources. In 2004, we placed what, at the time, was the world's largest contract for the supply of 'low-carbon' electricity. Today, 40 per cent of the electricity we use in the UK comes from renewable sources.

In California, a solar array powers our US headquarters in El Segundo, reducing our CO2 emissions by more than 316 metric tonnes a year.

And we're keen to go further.

By 2016, we hope 25 per cent of the electricity we use in the UK will be generated by the wind farms we want to build.

Efficiency improvements will also play a big part. We have done a huge amount to reduce the amount of power used in our main telecoms network, and we're working to do the same in our data centres. Instead of air conditioning, we use fresh air to cool our computers in the UK. In Italy, we use cool water from underground lakes.

What started BT on this path?

We set our first carbon reduction target back in 1992, well before other companies became aware of the problem and decided to act.

By taking leadership on sustainability, we have added value to our business as well as delivering benefits to society and to the wider environment.

How can future Information Communication Technology (ICT) technologies help further carbon emissions reductions?

Worldwide, the use of ICT generates about as much CO2 as the airline industry. But ICT is different - as well as being a source of emissions, it offers ways of eliminating them.

According to the Smart 2020 report, new applications of ICT could reduce global CO2 emissions by 7.8 gigatonnes a year by 2020 - 15 per cent of what might be produced if things continue as they are.

Take smart buildings, for example. Smart meters, more intelligent heating and cooling systems, smart appliances and a host of other ICT-enabled innovations can - and will - help drive emissions down. We will be seeing a lot more of them in visionary cities, like Dongtan in China.

Smarter approaches to travel and transport promise big savings as well. People aren't travelling as much on business as they were - they are using the latest conferencing technologies instead. Flexible working and homeworking are replacing the daily commute. And smart logistics and supply-chain management systems are reducing the emissions generated as goods move from A to B.

What else is BT doing to reduce its impact the environment?

We also impact the environment through the use of raw materials in the goods we buy and the disposal of things we no longer require.

We don't manufacture products, but we do buy large quantities of equipment and materials for use in our business and for onward supply to our customers.

Wherever possible, we choose environmentally friendly alternatives. For example, we use environmentally friendly copier and printer paper, 70 per cent of which is made from post-consumer waste. Energy consumption is an important consideration when we buy electronic equipment.

We take great care when we dispose of things as well. In 2011, BT Group recycled 39,944 tonnes or 81% of our total waste, an improvement from 44% in the previous year.

Supporting our communities

How much does BT contribute to the communities it works in?

Even though times have been tough recently, we have honoured our commitment to invest at least one per cent of our underlying pre-tax profits in community and environmental programmes.

In the year ending March 31, 2010, we gave £27.6 million - in time, cash and in-kind contributions - to activities that support society.

What kinds of things does BT do?

We focus on three areas that are strongly connected to our core business - communications, education and children.

We work with charities in these areas, so that we can use our expertise and experience to best effect.

So, can you give some examples of organisations BT works with?

Our charity partners include ChildLine, the emergency helpline for children and young people in the UK. We have contributed to ChildLine since it was founded in 1986.

We also sponsor two schools in India - KITES in Govindpuri and St Crispin's in Pune. The focus is again very much on IT and computer skills. KITES stands for 'The Katha Information Technology E-commerce School' and St Crispin's is very much an IT training centre. Both provide IT education and vocational training.

Some partnerships last for a set period of time. For example, we worked with UNICEF (between 2007-2010) on a programme called 'Inspiring Young Minds' designed to give disadvantaged children in South Africa, Brazil and China the chance to join and benefit from the information society.

Will your involvement in the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games change your approach?

No. As a partner to the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, we will continue to support educational, community, cultural and sporting activities related to our core business - communication.

Does BT respond to major disasters, like the Haiti earthquake?

Yes, we do, but only through partnerships that are already in play.

In June 2007, we launched a three year-partnership with the British Red Cross. The £100,000 we have donated every year has helped pay for emergency satellite telephones, IT equipment and GPS systems for relief vehicles.

In the UK, we work with the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), the charity that coordinates the responses of different agencies to major disasters and emergencies like Asian Tsunami and the earthquake in Haiti.

We manage the organisation's network and phone system on a day-to-day basis. When disasters or emergencies strike, we also provide an online giving donation platform, a call centre and volunteer agents to help.

Does BT make money from charity telethons like 'Children in Need'?

No. In actual fact, BT’s technology and people have helped charities to raise £34m in 2011. This includes our support for the Children in Need and Comic Relief telethons and the Disaster Emergency Committee Pakistan Floods appeal.

Do BT people give to charity?

Yes, very much so. In 2011, over 10,500 BT people worldwide contributed to charity via payroll giving. They gave approximately £2.5 million, which, when combined with the £1 million from BT, totalled £3.5 million to charities of their choice.

Employees gave over 49,000 days of their time to charities and community organisations in the 2011 financial year (2011), at an estimated value of £13.8m. This represents 70% more time than in the previous year, during which our people volunteered 28,713 days at an estimated value of £8m.

People who work for us can take up to three days fully-paid time off work each year to undertake tasks for charities and other voluntary organisations. They can sign up either as an individual or to support a short or long-term commitment we have made.

Does BT do any other Corporate Responsibility work outside the UK?

Yes. In 2006, working with Cisco and charity, OneWorld, we helped set up LifeLines India, a telephone-based information helpline providing advice and guidance to improve the lives of rural farming communities. The telephony and internet platform has since expanded and customised to provide academic support to teachers in rural areas. The education model piece of Lifelines is run by QUEST Alliance, part of the International Youth Foundation's regional initiative, Education and Employment Alliance (EEA).

What is BT Internet Rangers?

When it comes to surfing the web, young people are often the experts.

The BT Internet Rangers website is dedicated to all the young people out there who are helping bridge the 'digital divide' by using their skills to teach the older generation how to go online. The site contains various guides, support materials and activities that make being an internet teacher fun for children of all ages.

You can find out more at:

What is BT doing in schools in Manchester and Hastings?

BT is the proud lead partner in the Manchester Communication Academy, helping to create a new local high school that is a hub of local activity and learning. The Academy opened in September 2010 and is sponsored by BT, Manchester City Council and The Manchester College.

You can find out more at:  

The University of Brighton, BT and East Sussex County Council (the sponsors) are also proposing to open two new academy schools in Hastings and St Leonard's in September 2011. They will replace three existing schools - Filsham Valley, the Grove and Hillcrest.

Where else is BT involved in education?

Our Learning and Skills programme concentrates on helping pupils in primary and secondary schools develop their communication skills through a range of resources including teacher support materials, award schemes, drama performances and workshops.

To look at the free resources we offer, go here.

Our customers

How is BT helping its customers be more sustainable?

For large corporate clients, we have set up a dedicated sustainability practice. Its carbon impact assessment service is designed to give them a clear view of their carbon footprint and the steps they can take to reduce it.

Because of our expertise, we focus in particular on opportunities to use networked IT services in ways that will reduce your CO2 emissions. Steps firms might take include the introduction of remote, home or agile working, data centre virtualisation and consolidation, moving to thin-client desktops or collaborative worktools and field force automation.

To find out about our CIA quick start programme.

Can you give me an example of how BT's sustainability services work in practice?

Well, take conferencing services - the use of audio or video conferencing instead of travelling to meetings.

Our conferencing services are helping, one customer, the supermarket firm, Tesco, to reduce its carbon emissions by 2,446 tonnes per year. The change also reduced the amount it spent on business travel by £14 million and improved employee productivity by 18 per cent.

In the UK, 85 per cent of FTSE100 companies use our conferencing services.

What else are you doing?

Turning to our consumer market, all of our BT home phones now use new energy efficient power units. These are designed to consume around half the power of previous phones, reducing people's electricity bills and carbon emissions. We estimate that 50,000 tonnes less carbon as a result of this change.

And when people buy our new phones, they get a lot less packaging and 'bumph'. We have replaced user guides with 'quick-start' leaflets linked to online guides for people who want more product information.

And Small Medium Enterprises? Are you doing anything for them?

Absolutely! We're aware than small and medium-sized businesses employ 60 per cent of the workforce in the UK, for example. And we understand that sustainability can seem like the last thing a small business has time to think about - especially these days.

To help, we have created a range of resources. It includes:

We are also involved in a 'Supplier Support and Information Initiative' that has been set-up to identify practical help for small businesses on how they can navigate their way through procurement processes that request the reporting of green credentials.

Our people

Is BT an equal opportunities employer?

Very much so. We have always strived to provide a working environment that's easily accessible to everybody and recognises that different groups of workers have unique skills that they bring to the workplace.

We have a really strong track record when it comes to diversity and equality - so much so that we were one of the companies consulted by the UK government when it drew up new legislation on age discrimination.

So, do you employ older workers?

We do. The skills, experience and capabilities offered by older workers are increasingly valuable. So we recruit on merit, not on age.

Within our business too, we don't encourage people to select teams on irrelevant factors such as age. Teams are created on merit with managers selecting people who have the best mix of skills or bring an additional dimension to the team. This approach will result in teams which incorporate people of all ages and a wide range of diverse backgrounds.

Is BT a good place for parents to work?

Yes. And we can say that because people tell us it is.

In the UK, 99 per cent of the women who take maternity leave return to work afterwards. Of new mothers surveyed, the vast majority recognised the BT maternity package as being excellent.

But our focus isn't just on mothers. We offer enhanced paternity pay and enhanced parental leave, and the right to request flexible working is available to everyone.

Do you allow flexible working?

Yes - BT is pretty famous for its homeworking and flexible working policies. 9,460 of our employees are registered homeworkers. Many thousands more work flexibly, varying their place and hours of work from day to day.

Our approach is a simple one: customers come first - as long as they get served, it's OK.

Feedback from parents says that our approach to flexible working enables them to cope more readily with the normal challenges of being a parent.

And it's good for business. Our own statistics show that, when someone moves to flexible working, their performance increases significantly.

Are you fair to fathers too?

Yes, we are. At BT, we recognise that dads are as important a group as mums. That's why in 2004 we introduced enhanced paternity leave terms. On top of the statutory two weeks unpaid leave, we now offer dads an additional two weeks paid leave. Our commitment to fathers is underlined as BT is a founder member of Employers for Fathers.

Also in 2004, we launched a childcare vouchers scheme with our partner, Care4. Under this scheme, the first £55 per week of approved childcare paid for under the scheme will be free from both tax and national insurance payments. For a basic rate tax payer, this could be worth up to £903 a year - for a higher rate tax payer, up to £1,195.

The scheme has proved to be extremely popular with BT people. Recent figures show that 2,650 people were using the scheme to fund almost £8 million worth of childcare. Almost 70 per cent of people using the scheme are dads.