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Is O2 an ethical and sustainable mobile network provider?

O2 is a mobile network provider, supplying phone users in the UK. This mobile network provider has been rated and researched by The Good Shopping Guide and is featured on our Mobile Networks: Ethical Comparison Ratings Table. The Good Shopping Guide gives an Ethical Rating according to over 15 ethical criteria relating to the Environment, Animals and People. Unfortunately, O2 does not meet our Ethical Benchmark and is therefore not yet eligible for Ethical Accreditation. We encourage all brands to apply for Ethical Accreditation, however, because part of that process is receiving tailored consultation on how to improve an Ethical Rating, as well as brand ethics, sustainability policies and CSR reporting.

About O2

O2 UK, a British telecommunications services provider with its headquarters in Slough, England, and operating under the O2 name, is officially known as Telefonica UK Limited. Owning it is the 50:50 joint venture between Telefónica and Liberty Global known as VMED O2 UK Limited. O2 has 31.3 million users and is the largest mobile network operator in the UK as of September 2021.

Virgin Media O2 is a joint venture between Telefonica and Liberty Global. GiffGaff is also owned by Virgin Media O2 via Telefonica UK Ltd.

Is O2’s Environmental Report satisfactory?

O2 has a ‘Journey to Net Zero‘ document which outlines several carbon emissions reduction targets, with the goal of being Net Zero by 2040. There are also additional goals on electric vehicles, green energy, plastic, and recycling. Although O2’s Net Zero target isn’t particularly ambitious, this mobile network provider does have a wide range of targets and a clear plan for CO2 reductions. Telefonica also has a climate section (called ‘Building a Greener Future‘) in its Annual Report, which contains further targets. For this, O2 receives a good Ethical Rating for its Environmental Report.

Additionally, O2 and its parent companies have not been found to invest or profit from the Nuclear industries.

Telefónica and bull-fighting 

PETA has criticised Telefónica for airing Spanish bullfights on its stations. They have encouraged Telefónica to refrain from airing the sport of bullfighting, which PETA regards as brutal and inhumane. This is an ongoing and unresolved criticism, at the time of writing.

O2 and Human Rights criticisms

Three companies in Telefónica Brazil’s supply chain as well as the company itself were found guilty of using slave labour. After it was discovered that workers were working under slavery-like conditions while constructing a cell phone tower in 2014, a panel of labour judges in Espirito Santo, Brazil, decided that Telefónica was responsible. Eleven labourers were hired from Maranhao, one of the most impoverished states in Brazil, and required to work long hours for a month without breaks, restrooms, or sleeping accommodations, all while receiving no pay. The business and its subcontractors were fined 200,000 Brazilian Real (about £37.5k), and they also ran the possibility of being included in a “dirty list” of businesses that had been found guilty of using slave labour.

How can O2 improve its Ethical Rating?

Before its score on our Mobile Networks: Ethical Comparison Ratings Table would likely improve, O2 has a number of ethical issues to resolve and address, including accusations of Animal Welfare and Human Rights violations.

If your mobile network provider values ethics and sustainability, why not check out The Good Shopping Guide‘s Ethical Accreditation? Increase customer and investor confidence and stand out from the greenwash.


Ethical performance in category


GSG score


GSG category benchmark


Ethical Rating


  • Environmental Report


  • Nuclear Power


  • Fossil Fuels



  • Animal Welfare



  • Armaments


  • Political Donations


  • Human Rights



  • Ethical Accreditation


  • Other Criticisms


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