It takes collaboration to build a credible and circular sustainability strategy between businesses. Foxway and Yettel, two circular tech partners, have managed just that.
Foxway caught up with Galina Parmenter, ESG Senior Advisor at Yettel, and asked her about the successful circular tech partnership between the two companies.
Why is the circular economy booming?
Sustainable practices have come into focus for many businesses following the international Paris Agreement in 2015. Almost all of the world’s largest companies publish sustainability reports, and approximately one-third of Europe’s public companies have pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Electronic waste, the fastest-growing waste stream in the world, presents one of the quickest opportunities to reach those targets. Circular tech companies recycle, repair, and reuse devices, so they can live a second life after being sold to other users.
Electronic equipment contains precious metals, which can have а harmful effect, should the equipment end up in landfills. Foxway aims to source devices at their end of life and put them back into circulation. One such method is via other companies that collect devices from their customers.
One such company is Yettel.
Who is Yettel?
Yettel is the newest telecommunications brand, part of PPF Telecom Group, introduced in 2022 in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Serbia. It provides digital services and connectivity, focusing on customers and a simple mission: to help them find balance in life.
Yettel Bulgaria provides connectivity to over 3 million users with people, devices, and businesses. Until March 2022, the company was present on the Bulgarian market as Telenor Bulgaria. Today, Yettel Bulgaria has more than 1,800 employees and over 180 retail stores, and its mobile network covers over 99% of Bulgaria’s population.
After the launch of a successful mobile phone buyback program, run in collaboration with Foxway, the brand has officially included the topic of e-waste collection in their Sustainability strategy 2028, published during this year. The company aims to prevent 127,000 kg of e-waste from going to landfill in the next five years.
“We commit to responsible and transparent management of our technology and resources, aiming to provide reliable and safe connectivity services and digital solutions for our customers, with care to our environmental and social impact and consideration for our employees.” Jason King, CEO of Yettel Bulgaria.
Why are circular tech partnerships profitable?
Achieving a truly circular economy — where waste products are reused for new purposes — is usually a hard task for a single company. While we see some excellent examples of closing the product cycles from larger companies, the final goal of reaching circularity can also be achieved through extensive collaboration between multiple organizations. Of course, such partnerships need to be efficient enough to remain profitable for everyone.
One of the easiest ways companies can help advance our society towards a circular economy is by partnering with businesses working on similar sustainable goals. When two firms set out to put sustainability at the heart of their purpose, these circular tech partnerships can help reduce unnecessary friction by promoting collaboration over competition.
Much like the partnership between Foxway and Yettel.
Why did Yettel choose Foxway as your circular tech partner?
The major advantage we saw back in the day is that Foxway had established an excellent buyback tool that Yettel now uses for the three ready-to-market services that our customers love:
What makes the cooperation successful for Yettel?
We are delighted by Foxway’s flexible “can-do” approach, which helps us offer a great variety of customer propositions. Foxway’s support and motivation are one of the primary reasons for our success in increasing the number of collected devices from the Bulgarian market while building a culture fostering sustainable living among the population in Bulgaria.
How easy was it to become a circular tech partner with Foxway? How would you describe the onboarding process?
The process needed to consider the complex environment and the specifics of the telecommunication business, where there are several legacy systems and background business and administrative processes.
An additional layer of complexity was the tight and challenging deadlines, as the whole integration process was done within three weeks from initiation. It is incredibly fascinating, as Foxway adapted its system and software solutions to our particular needs and offered flexible and robust service.
Together with Foxway, we solved all issues that inevitably arise in such onboarding circumstances. Jointly, we redrew the whole logistics setup and implemented the solutions in a way that did not create any additional strain for the end users.
We also received full support when it comes to the launch of the Buy Back service at Yettel. Together with Foxway, we were able to onboard more than 180 stores! The system was fully localized, and training materials for the personnel were prepared for our sales teams.
“Yettel and their team have been a fantastic example of what it means to work with true and passionate professionals whilst being a real lighthouse and the “challenger” in the CEE market to become a leading example that sustainability and business can come together hand-in-hand.” Mikkel Frid, Sourcing Director, Foxway
Let’s talk numbers. How many devices are traded in through the program annually/monthly? Are volumes increasing?
Yettel has seen a significant improvement in the trade-in scheme over the years, mainly related to the Yettel communication campaigns and product propositions presented on the local market. We have collected three times more devices in 2021 compared to 2020, and more than doubled in volume in 2022.
What is the primary motivator for consumers in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) to opt for device trade-ins?
Speaking about our customers, at Yettel Bulgaria, we observe the following three factors:
Customers wish to take advantage of newer devices, and our services allow them to do so while also solving the question of what they should do with their existing devices.
Sustainability within the circular economy
It’s no secret that our customers want to make more sustainable choices in their day-to-day lives and thus demand such products and services from the business. As of today, more and more people in Bulgaria want to be part of the change and support our mission to recycle or refurbish old devices, which will result in reducing our impact on the environment.
Yettel has launched several brand awareness campaigns that offer deals to our potential customers. We want to foster a sustainability culture, and through our offers, we provide additional discounts for customers who bring their old devices for recycling or refurbishment.
In your view, why sustainable business practices can be a competitive advantage in today’s market?
The combination of providing excellent customer service and offering an attractive ecosystem for electronic devices helps us be a preferred telecom operator in Bulgaria.
Our aim is to provide an attractive yet sustainable customer lifecycle journey. For instance, the Recycle & Save initiative is a step toward more sustainable decisions to keep the environment more carbon neutral — an ambition our customers genuinely care for.
Various international surveys reveal that the Millennials and Generation Z are highly responsible and sensitive about ecological, sustainable, and climate change topics. In our case, Millennials and Generation Z represent a significant part of Yettel’s customer base.
Another worldwide trend is related to the fact that people tend to keep their old devices at home, just in case the new one breaks. Global statistics show that around 75% of e-waste is stored in people’s homes (old phones or small mobile devices). While this practice is also common in Bulgaria, the awareness about the topic of electronic waste in the country is increasing. According to social research conducted by Yettel in 2022, so far, only 10% of the people in Bulgaria have used services for recycling old devices at least once in the past. However, 65% of our population intends to use recycling services in the future.
Do you believe there will be an organizational culture shift within businesses towards more sustainability because of these customer trends?
Our company’s primary focus is to serve its customers’ needs. And we believe this should also be the focus of the rest of the businesses. Today, companies must shift their practices to include the sustainable solutions their clients demand to retain customers.
We need to constantly adapt to the market needs, so we created the Recycle & Save service, which gives our customers a simple and sustainable option. Every mobile device has a serious environmental footprint, so our mission is to educate on the topic and enable more and more people to return the old devices which they don’t use in our stores.
How important is sustainability to Yettel?
Sustainability is paramount for Yettel. We are committed to it and actively looking for ways to educate others about its importance.
We launched our first major sustainable campaign in 2018 with the service Buy Back, which was the first for the Bulgarian market at the time of its launch. The Buy Back service enables customers to return their old devices (smartphones, tablets) in any Yettel store and receive a discount voucher for their next purchase, the value of which depends on the returned device’s condition.
In June 2022, we launched our new sustainable Recycle & Save service, promoting it via TV, Radio, and Out-Of-Home communication. The primary focus of the communication was to showcase to our customers and employees that storing your old device in a drawer is the same as discarding it in nature.
To discourage that behaviour, we offered our customers attractive discounts (-25%) for purchasing a new smartphone. The conditions to take advantage of this discount were to return their old devices to our stores and sign/continue their contract for mobile services with us.
Our top priority is to engage customers to care even more about environmental protection and to recognize Yettel’s values through achieving balance with nature while using the latest digital technologies.
Speak to a Foxway sustainable sourcing specialist like Mikkel. As our sourcing director, he’s built an efficient and sustainable network that supports a circular economy whilst considering our need to reduce our environmental footprint.