2018 was a landmark year for VEON. We are now stronger and better placed to help all our stakeholders seize the increasing opportunities of the digital age.
I am proud that during the past year we continued to see the positive impact of our sustainability programme. Many of our ten markets have young and growing populations with relatively low smartphone use and internet availability when compared to, for example, Europe or the United States.
This offers commercial opportunities for VEON but can also present challenges, at times, for local communities.
Our sustainability strategy centres on fostering digital entrepreneurs, addressing digital literacy gaps and encouraging greater sustainability in those countries where we operate. I have seen for myself just how impactful our sustainability programme is.
From using digital tools to improve education outcomes for young women in Pakistan and those in rural Ukraine to supporting starts ups in Bangladesh and Armenia – not to mention dozens of other programmes - it is clear to me that VEON is a force for good in the communities where we operate.
VEON fully supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and I am pleased we are making progress on delivering against three of these where we can have the greatest impact: quality education; decent work and economic growth and industry, innovation and infrastructure.
Effective corporate governance remains at the core of VEON’s corporate culture and we have a governance structure that promotes integrity in everything we do. Our culture is centred on clearly defined values and supported by a robust set of controls and compliance framework. We see this as integral to achieving our goal of an organisation with the highest standards of ethics, integrity and compliance.
This year is the first time that VEON has sought independent assurance for our Sustainability Report – a further sign of our transparency and commitment to responsible business.
VEON is focused on maximising the exciting opportunities afforded by the adoption of digital technologies across our markets for all our stakeholders.
I look forward to seeing our efforts to build a sustainable and responsible business flourish in 2019 and beyond.
Chairman and CEO
Our approach to sustainability goes beyond corporate philanthropy by using technology to empower communities. We forge valuable partnerships that benefit all our stakeholders.
We use technology to foster digital entrepreneurship, boost digital skills and literacy and facilitate sustainable operations that create economic growth and opportunity.
VEON launched the Make Your Mark initiative to foster digital entrepreneurship and a culture of innovation, supporting people to start their own businesses and create employment for others.
VEON operates in emerging economies that typically have young, growing populations. This can create a demographic dividend for countries, provided there are sufficient employment opportunities and prospects of earning a decent livelihood. We launched our ‘Make Your Mark’ programme in 2014 to foster digital entrepreneurship and support people to start their own business and to create work for others.
Our operating companies invest in start-up incubators and accelerators to offer budding founders the support to launch and scale business ideas that address local unmet needs. These start-up programmes typically operate under a range of public and private partnerships such as the Jazz National Incubation Center in Pakistan and the Beeline Start-up Incubator in Armenia. These incubation tech-hubs provide intensive mentorship, shared working facilities and a range of other support services.
Based on successful tech-hubs from around the world but reflecting the specific conditions and needs of the local economy, our initiatives typically offer four- to six-month programmes for groups of early-stage businesses.
Participants are offered guidance on everything from technology and leadership skills through to growth hacking and fundraising, with their progress gauged throughout the incubation cycle. Successful start-ups are showcased globally, including at the renowned annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
We also support local hackathons, application development competitions and other non-resident programmes to encourage the development of broader digital ecosystems in our operating countries.
“The Jazz National Incubation Center has been a godsend”, says Mustafa Muhammad, the co-founder of Mauqa Online, a digital start-up that allows users to schedule high-quality domestic helpers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. He faced many roadblocks after launching his business.
“My plans and ambitions were bigger than my knowledge and resources,” says Ramzi Ikouirene, the founder of ELITEINC start-up. “The ENP Incubator by Djezzy gave me the professional support that I needed to get further and faster”.
It was a tough beginning as an entrepreneur for Saadman Shahid Chowdhury, the co-founder of Genie IOT.
The Armenian start-up ecosystem is fertile ground for budding technology entrepreneurs, but those starting out for the first time in the capital of Yerevan face challenges accessing funding and mentorship.
We support education programmes that build digital inclusion and close gaps in digital skills and literacy, driving development in emerging markets.
Recognising education as one of the key drivers of socio-economic development, we use our knowledge of technology and connectivity to support tech-centric educational initiatives that offer positive learning outcomes. Our support is delivered through a mixture of partnerships, training carried out by our own employees, direct investments or donations.
VEON supports digital skills and literacy programmes that provide Information and Communications Technology (ICT) equipment and internet connectivity to under-resourced educational institutions.
Our projects in various operating countries offer customised training and mentorship for youth to secure employment.
With the help of our partners, we have developed and deployed mobile literacy (mLiteracy) solutions that allow men and women to attain education within the security and convenience of their own homes. These applications are also facilitating better planning, and monitoring and evaluation by educational administrators.
"Our volunteers" drive and determination motivated students to keep going no matter what and to do their best to achieve their aims", said Katerina Solmchuk, from the participating school in GoCamp 2018.
Education now means something different to Saira Ali, a year nine student in Pakistan's capital Islamabad. Since joining the Jazz Smart School programme, Saira has experienced what she describes as an "extraordinary" change of learning environment.
Kyrgyzstan is a country of 6.2 million people, where access to mobile broadband and smartphone ownership is growing. However, in remote parts of the country there remains a gap in knowledge about how to access and benefit from the digital economy.
Bangladesh has embarked on ambitious plans to grow its digital economy as part of its Vision 2021.
We continually assess key areas of our business to ensure that we manage our impact in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
VEON routinely assesses areas that are most material to our business to ensure we manage our impact in a way that is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our 2018 materiality analysis looked at the economic, environmental and social issues that are most significant to our stakeholders.
This detailed process began with a peer review of material topics reported by comparable companies and an analysis of local and global news sources to ultimately identify the current importance of various issues.
Certain members of VEON’s management and sustainability teams in our operating companies then completed a survey ranking the relevance of the topics to our strategic business decision-making as well as their respective environmental and social impact. The outcome is the VEON Materiality Matrix: a graphical demonstration which attempts to capture what matters most to VEON, our stakeholders and our communities.
Based on the outcome of the assessment, the following four topics are considered most material to our company:
- Ethics & Integrity
- Financial Performance
- Quality of Services
- Data Privacy & Cyber Security