Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is committed to upholding human rights within its sphere of influence and welcomes the adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. This set of principles creates a global framework for countries to fulfill their duty to protect human rights, as well as for businesses to respect them, illustrating how to do so.
Countries are obliged to establish a regulatory framework for the protection of human rights. For global companies, it is important that this be implemented across all countries in order to create uniform competitive conditions for all companies.
The duty of companies is to uphold and respect human rights; they absolutely must not violate any human rights in the course of their activities. Furthermore, companies must also act with the necessary due diligence, which includes identifying and managing risks.
In 2012, we conducted an extensive human rights risk assessment, which aimed to identify the human rights risks that arise from our activities as an international company. Based on the results of this assessment, we adopted a Group-wide at the end of 2013, which underscores our commitment to respecting and protecting human rights. This charter brings together and complements existing human rights regulations and guidelines, such as our Code of Conduct, our "Environment, Health and Safety Policy", and our "Charter on Access to Health in Developing Countries". The Human Rights Charter defines our company's expectations while increasing awareness of human rights within the company. It also allows us to more accurately assess Group-specific risks and to align our business operations with our .
In the course of drafting our Human Rights Charter, we asked external stakeholders for their opinion on our approach to human rights and then considered the situation from this external perspective. Among these stakeholders were business and human rights experts from various countries, trade unions, associations, and specialists in individual topics addressed in the charter. We have informed our employees about the Human Rights Charter, but have not yet provided training on this charter.
The UN "Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights" also require companies to perform human rights impact assessments (HRIA) to promptly identify any human rights problem areas. At the end of 2014, we conducted an HRIA in an emerging country. While we wish to further expand our strong market position in emerging economies, we are aware that these countries pose a higher risk of human rights violations. Through the HRIA, we aim to gain a better understanding of how our business operations and business relationships impact human rights, to ascertain whether the requirements of our Human Rights Charter are being fulfilled, and predict the risk of human rights violations. We furthermore wish to identify ways to prevent human rights violations.
After completing the HRIA and evaluating the results, we will check whether the findings from the assessment can be applied to other subsidiaries.