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Responding department: Global Corporate Citizenship (also with input from Legal / External Affairs)

Stock exchange symbol:  (VZ:US)

Does your company have a publicly available commitment to respect human rights?

Yes. Verizon’s Human Rights Statement was updated in 2013: [link]

  • Verizon Employee Code of Conduct: [link]
  • Verizon Supplier Code of Conduct: [link]
  • Verizon EEO/Affirmative Action Policy: [link]
  • Verizon Privacy Policy: [link]
  • Verizon Environmental, Health and Safety Management Policy: [link]
  • Verizon Transparency Report: [link]
  • Verizon Conflict Minerals Statement: [link]
  • Content Policy for Verizon Networks: [link]
  • Verizon’s Universal Design Principles can be found here: [link] and on page 43 of our Corporate Responsibility Supplement to the Annual Report (2013): [link] 

How are human rights governed in your company?

Verizon’s Corporate Governance and Policy Committee of the Board of Directors has oversight for our human rights practices. A director in our international policy group is responsible for our human rights practices with support from the Global Corporate Citizenship team, the Human Resources Office of Ethics and Business Compliance, and our Legal Department.

How are human rights managed within your company?

Verizon is committed to promoting values that foster human rights. We strive to create an environment of respect, integrity and fairness for employees and customers wherever we do business, and we expect our business partners to operate the same way. The Verizon Credo ([link]) and Code of Conduct ([link]) guide our actions. One section on how we work reads: “We know teamwork enables us to serve our customers better and faster. We embrace diversity and personal development not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s smart business. We respect and trust one another, communicating openly, candidly and directly since any other way is unfair and a waste of time. We voice our opinion and exercise constructive dissent and then rally around the agreed-upon action with our full support. Any one of us can deliver a view or idea to anyone else, and listen to and value another’s view regardless of title or level. Ideas live and die on their merits rather than where they were invented.”

Our Human Rights Statement ([link]) articulates our respect for the broad principles in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we are a signatory to the MacBride Principles, a code of conduct for U.S. companies doing business in Northern Ireland. The Principles require signatories to make all lawful efforts to implement fair employment practices. In 2013, we convened a cross-functional, internal human rights working group to analyze the human rights accountability policies set out in the “Ruggie” framework. Two of the outputs from this review included the issuance of our updated Human Rights Statement (2013) ([link]) and the release of our first Transparency Report (2014) ([link]).

What is the company’s approach to the engagement of stakeholders (including workers, and local communities impacted by the company’s activities), on human rights issues?

We listen to and talk with a wide range of people — consumers, seniors, educators, elected officials, law enforcement, minorities, rural constituents, veterans and others — who are important to our business. Our long-standing Consumer Advisory Board, which consists of leading public interest advocates from across the country, meets two to three times a year and delivers an unfiltered view of business and social issues. Their opinions and advice play an important role in the development and eventual sale of many of our products and services. We generate multiple discussions through our website and the use of social media. We further expanded our participation in social media channels to include Twitter. As part of our stakeholder outreach, we use our Consumer Roundtable to educate consumers on our strategies and to solicit their recommendations. All of these forums provide us with valuable intelligence that helps us improve the effectiveness of the solutions we offer our customers and measure the environmental performance of our business. In 2014, we engaged BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) to conduct a formal materiality assessment to help us understand which issues are of highest importance to our business and stakeholders. We received input from more than 200 key stakeholders through one-on-one interviews and online surveys. Human rights, specifically the responsible management of requests to collect business and customer data, was identified as one of the most significant areas in which Verizon can create both business and social value. We’re also mindful that, because of our scope and scale, our voice can be helpful on a range of social issues that are important to our stakeholders. For instance, in 2013, Verizon publicly advocated on immigration reform legislation, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, phone reform in prison and gay marriage. We regularly review our human rights practices and corporate best practices to determine whether changes are appropriate. We work closely with multiple external organizations and experts on corporate citizenship and human rights including Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship and the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI); all of these inputs are factored into our corporate policies and practices. In 2015, Verizon is supporting GeSI’s launch of a human rights work stream, which will include an external stakeholder panel that will help GeSI members identify the human rights issues most applicable to the information communications technology (ICT) industry and support the identification of human rights best management practices.

Priority human rights issues: What are some of the priority human rights issues for your company?

The company selected the following from a check list:

  • Health (including environmental health, workplace health & safety)  
  • Workplace diversity / non-discrimination
  • Forced labour and human trafficking (including in supply chains)  
  • Sexual harassment
  • Freedom of association and trade union rights  
  • Freedom of expression and/or right to privacy / digital rights  
  • Conflict minerals    
  • Transparency in payments to governments / responsible tax practices  
  • Product Misuse
  • Racial and ethnic minorities
  • Children (including child labour)

Actions on health

Health: Verizon is committed to the health and wellness of our employees, their families and our retirees. In 2013, we provided coverage to more than 700,000 beneficiaries, investing more than $3.2 billion to deliver high-quality health care benefits. Our goal is to provide a work environment that promotes a culture of health. Ensuring employees have access to the right care at the right time is one of our health benefits priorities.

Actions on workplace diversity / non-discrimination

Diversity/Non- discrimination/Racial and ethnic minorities: At Verizon, diversity means cultivating an inclusive organization that reflects the marketplace and leverages the diversity of employees, customers, suppliers and community partners, because it is the right thing to do and drives business success. We measure our progress, and we hold our executives accountable for promoting diversity within their organizations. Please see our Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Policy ([link]).

Actions on sexual harassment

Forced labor/Sexual harassment: Verizon is committed to a workplace free from unlawful discrimination and harassment and will not tolerate discriminatory or harassing behavior of any kind. Please see our employee Code of Conduct ([link]) and EEO statement ([link]).

Actions on freedom of expression and privacy

Freedom of expression/Privacy/Digital rights - Verizon has a long history of standing up for the privacy rights of our customers. We are committed to maintaining strong and meaningful privacy protections for customers, striving to present privacy practices and policies to customers in a clear manner. We understand that consumers will use the full capabilities of our communications networks and the vast opportunities our products and services provide only if they trust that their information will remain private. Protecting the privacy of customer information is part of each Verizon employee's responsibility, and we have reliable safeguards in place to shield customer information from unauthorized access, use or disclosure. In our Privacy Policy ([link]), we inform our customers about the information we collect, how we use it, and their options regarding our use of their information. We publish a transparency report ([link]) that provides data on the number of law enforcement requests for consumer information that Verizon receives in the United States and in other countries where we do business; this is updated bi-annually. As stated in our Content Policy ([link]), we respect freedom of expression and our customers' ability to freely access and disseminate the lawful content of their choosing in a manner that respects others’ use of the network and that complies with the law. We support sound industry practices for safeguarding children and the intellectual property rights of content owners, as well as the privacy and security of our customers.

Actions on conflict minerals

Conflict Minerals: Verizon supports the goals of Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires public companies like Verizon to exercise diligence over the supply chains of products we contract to manufacture. Please see our statement on conflict minerals ([link]).

Actions on tax avoidance & revenue transparency

Transparency: Our commitment to operate a responsible and ethical business starts with the Verizon Credo. We know that to succeed in today’s global market our brand must stand for integrity, trust and the highest ethical standards. We live up to these ideals through a comprehensive ethics and compliance program that is built on our Verizon Code of Conduct ([link]). We have implemented a robust lineup of resources to operationalize our commitment – please see page 39 of our Corporate Responsibility Supplement ([link]).

How are human rights commitments and information about how the company addresses its human rights impacts communicated, internally and externally?

Verizon publishes a Corporate Responsibility Supplement to the Annual Report ([link]), which details much of the information shared here. For our suppliers, we engage in direct conversations. A due diligence process is in place and we set up corrective action plans as necessary. We communicate with employees via our company intranet, employee policies and required and supplemental employee training. All policies are available online: [link].

What provisions does your company have in place to ensure that grievances from workers and affected communities or individuals are heard, and can you provide examples of remedies provided?

Verizon administers a compliance program to prevent, detect and remediate misconduct. Employees, suppliers, customers and members of the general public can contact Verizon’s Office of Ethics and Business Conduct (OEBC) if they suspect inappropriate behavior. The OEBC has established an Ethics and EEO GuideLine which is available 24 hours a day via phone or online for confidential reporting and investigation of potential grievances ranging from discriminatory treatment to unethical business practices. Verizon Wireless also offers a similar Compliance Guideline, available 24 hours a day via phone or online.

In addition, Verizon has:

  • A Security Control Center: operated by Verizon Security, available 24 hours a day via phone, to report or inquire about issues ranging from international cybersecurity to legal compliance, and
  • Environmental and Safety Hotlines for reporting emergencies, arranging for waste disposal or getting on-site help from the company’s environmental and safety specialists.

 Please see page 39 of our Corporate Responsibility Supplement: [link]

Which external and collaborative human rights initiatives does your company participate in, and what is the nature of your involvement?

Verizon is an active member in both the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI) and the Joint Audit Cooperation (JAC). GeSI: GeSI’s mission is to create a sustainable world through responsible, ICT-enabled transformation. Verizon has been involved with GeSI since 2006 (Verizon is a current board member) and helped to establish GeSI’s human rights work stream, launching in 2015. This work stream will allow for ICT companies to share best practices across the GeSI membership regarding human rights impacts. The work stream will actively work with external advisors who will help identify unintended human rights impacts of ICT products and services to which GeSI members may not be aware, and aid in the development of best practices.

JAC: Verizon joined the Joint Audit Cooperation (JAC) in 2013 as its first U.S.- based member. JAC is an association of telecom operators focusing on CR issues in the supply chain. To promote efficiency and best practices, JAC provides a shared and coordinated on-site CR audit program of suppliers common to JAC members. When opportunities for improvement are identified, we are able to collaborate with our suppliers on corrective action plans promoting communication and improvement, thereby mitigating risk for both our company and the supplier.

Which are the key one, two or three elements of your approach to human rights that been developed or amended since June 2011? Please indicate if these actions were in response to the UN Guiding Principles.

As mentioned above, in 2013, Verizon convened a cross-functional, internal human rights working group to analyze the human rights accountability policies set out in the “Ruggie” framework. Two of the outputs from this review included the issuance of our updated Human Rights Statement (2013) and the release of our first Transparency Report (2014).