2019 was an important year for Liberty Global. We significantly reshaped our business, creating and enabling national champions to challenge telco incumbents in our core markets, while strengthening our focus on being a purpose-driven company.
Our Connected Purpose aims to effect positive change through technology, break down barriers through the power of connectivity, and ensure we are strong corporate citizens and environmental stewards in the communities where we operate. Following are some of our key achievements during 2019.
Acting in a responsible, inclusive and sustainable manner
We remained a leader in our sector on climate change, with an unwavering commitment to reducing our impact on the environment. In 2019 we continued to improve our operations to meet our new 2030 and 2050 science-based targets in line with the Paris Climate Accord. In fact, we were 40 times more carbon efficient compared to 2012. We also avoided more than 11,000 metric tons of carbon emissions and 2,500 metric tons of e-waste through our various environmental initiatives.
Our gigabit broadband deployments in cities throughout our operating territories and efforts to accelerate the transition to 5G will underpin a low carbon economy, while revolutionizing healthcare, flexible working regimes and countless other aspects of our lives.
Harnessing the power of technology to help solve societal challenges
Diversity and inclusion have long been priorities for Liberty Global and our operating companies, and will become even more integral moving forward. Over the past several years, Liberty Global, Virgin Media, VodafoneZiggo, Telenet and UPC Poland have all pursued gender diversity as strategic goals, with an emphasis on building a gender-diverse pipeline. Similarly, inclusion is a key focus area and we are committed to providing an environment that empowers everyone to bring their full selves to work while creating more inviting workplaces regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Virgin Media, for instance, has pursued initiatives to create a greater sense of “Belonging,” including its Stronger Together program that brings a collective approach to innovating inclusive work place solutions. And its partnership with Scope helped over 540,000 disabled people find and stay in work opportunities in 2019. Additionally, Liberty Global is a founding partner of the newly-launched Women in Cable and Telecommunications European Chapter, centering on gender diversity and inclusion within our industry.
We know we can do more. This year we’ve launched an even more focused, coordinated and united approach to diversity and inclusion with an emphasis on deep research to understand what truly moves the needle, and we’re designing initiatives through that lens. I look forward to sharing those efforts in our 2020 annual report.
At the heart of our Connected Purpose framework, our longstanding initiatives spark social innovation and entrepreneurship. In the past year, our flagship “Digital Imagination” program, with its Future Makers Awards and Coolest Projects events, continued to promote the creativity of young people. Our sponsorship of the STEAM Cup Challenge in the Netherlands, for example, brought together over 600 young coders who showcased their “House of the Future” inventions.
In addition to our investments enabling and recognizing young innovators, our foundational programs to keep children safe online and protect data privacy, among many other initiatives, remained core to our Responsible Connectivity programs. In fact, last year we created a new version of a toolkit first launched in 2007 that engages families, educators and children in online safety, and more than two million toolkits have been delivered to date.
Our response to COVID-19
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic provides a powerful reminder of the critical role that connectivity plays in our lives. As an essential service provider to families, businesses, hospitals and schools, our COVID-19 response has been strong and well-received in our markets. We have prioritized the safety and well-being of our employees and customers while maintaining the highest-quality video, voice and broadband services, despite exceptional demands on our networks. For employees, we expanded work-from-home plans and increased health measures within our offices. We also established a $4 million Liberty Global Response Fund to help employees and their families significantly affected by the crisis. Our executive leadership team and board of directors pledged $2 million to the Fund, which was matched by the company to support our employees in need.
I am particularly proud of the creative ways we have also supported our markets. Telenet opened up free internet access for students in Belgium; VodafoneZiggo collaborated to launch a free telephone help desk for the elderly in The Netherlands; Virgin Media offered 2.7 million UK customers unlimited minutes to landlines and mobile numbers; and UPC Poland offered children’s programming free of charge. In these ways, we’ve been helping alleviate some of the hardship, as we all navigate the COVID-19 crisis together.
In summary, 2019 was a pivotal year for Liberty Global. We are proud of the work we are doing to be good corporate citizens and we are actively pursuing initiatives to ramp up and improve the impact we have on the world.
View the full report here.