Materiality: Reassessing our ESG strategy for a post-pandemic world 

We typically conduct a bi-yearly materiality assessment. With the major and unanticipated disruption that COVID-19 brought to our business, customers and employees, we fully appreciated the value of this exercise.    

In addition to responding to the challenges and opportunities raised by the coronavirus pandemic, we also sought to learn from this unprecedented experience and understand whether we should adjust our CR framework, targets or disclosures.   

Our approach to Materiality 

The purpose of our materiality assessment is to ensure we remain tuned onto the key ESG issues that are important to our stakeholders and that impact on the business to ensure that our CR and business strategy meets current needs and expectations.   Every assessment builds on the lessons learned in the previous one, effectively leading to a cycle of continuous look-backs and improvement. Our previous materiality assessment had taken place in 2018, with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and led to a holistic CR Framework that served us well for years, along with a 5-year Plan with targets and goals agreed upon with leaders from different business functions. While our key issues did not differ materially from the previous assessment, the transition to a strategic ESG Framework which tied all our work to Millicom’s core business purpose, helped us achieve more alignment and ownership across business functions and all operations  

2020 Materiality Assessment: Methodology 

While the methodological approach was replicated from the 2018 assessment, we tailored the 2020 assessment to the specific issues, challenges and opportunities posed by   COVID-19. Accordingly, we focused on:   

  • If and how COVID-19 challenges, priorities impacted business, stakeholder priorities or CR Framework/Plan 
  • Which issues need to be raised or lowered in priority 
  • Whether there are any new relevant issues 
  • What capabilities we need to create or improve 

We supplemented the list of relevant ESG issues with comprehensive desktop research which included the latest publications from investors, industry, NGOs and multilateral organizations.    

As in past exercises, we interviewed over 40 internal leaders of our business lines and in our operations. We also reached out to our four key stakeholder groups in the following manner: 

Group 

Type of engagement 

Investors 

  • Interviews with key Millicom investors 
  • Revision of reports on our company by top ESG raters 
  • Ongoing monitoring of ESG queries received from investors and potential investors 

Customers 

  • Online survey conducted to over 4,000 customers from all our markets. 

Employees 

  • Interviews with key Human Resources staff  
  • Internal HR surveys conducted company-wide 

Community 

  • Interviews with NGOs focusing on Sustainability, Child Rights and Privacy 
  • Online survey to a group of NGOs, community organizations and public sector agencies in all our markets. 

  

Assessment Results 

Through our he assessment, we obtained insights on how certain expectations had shifted by stakeholder group which lead us to updating our 2018 matrix. Below you can see the expectations by stakeholder group as well as the updated materiality matrix, color-coded to show which topics had changed regarding the previous assessment: 

2020 Materiality Matrix 

 

Conclusions 

We found that our strategic CR framework, evolving into an even more comprehensive ESG approach, provided a sound compass to navigate through the disruption and remains very relevant, albeit with some shifts in our tactics and approach. While all our current areas of focus remain of interest to our stakeholders, some topics, such as Employee and Contractor health and wellness and climate change increased in importance. In addition, some topics   took on significantly more relevance. For example, our Business Purpose became more important than ever.  Guided by our North Star, our workforce doubled down to ensure that our network and digital tools helped keep businesses running, gave citizens access to healthcare, education, government services, and allowed them to produce incomes while safely working from home.  We also noted a “Shift in Collaboration Model” or how COVID-19 accelerated the changes in our ways of work, something that   proved invaluable as we navigated through the uncertainty. 

We also understood that Millicom has an opportunity to more clearly link its ESG goals with the company business objectives and to better communicate that alignment to all of our stakeholder groups; something reflected in the updated and upgraded ESG strategy developed during 2021, with new and ambitious targets on emissions reduction and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion added to our ongoing commitments. All in all, the exercise was very valuable tool to conduct company-wide discussions on the opportunities ahead in the “new normal”.