Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
Commitment, principles & goals
- Code of Conduct: Our Code of Conduct is a compulsory set of rules for all employees. It explains the principles for dealings with business associates, general partners, co-workers, and employees, as well as the communities in which we operate. The Code thus guides our employees in taking an ethical course of action – not only in their interactions with one another, but also outside the company.
- Human Rights Charter: Our Human Rights Charter supports our commitment to respecting and protecting human rights. This document consolidates 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. Our Human Rights Charter has three goals: first, to define our expectations; second, to increase awareness of human rights within the company; and third, to more accurately assess Group-specific risks as well as align our business operations with our Values.
- Procurement Policy: Through our Group Procurement Policy, we ensure that our procurement processes embody corporate responsibility standards.This includes the selection, assessment and management of suppliers. This policy reflects numerous internal and external guidelines, such as our Code of Conduct, our Human Rights Charter, and our EHS policy.
- Our Responsible Sourcing Principles: To complement our Procurement Policy, we have developed the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Responsible Sourcing Principles and integrated them Group-wide into our general terms and conditions. These principles define what we require of our suppliers with regard to responsible conduct, highlighting the responsibility of our suppliers to apply our corporate responsibility standards to their upstream value chain.
As a member company of the German Federal Association for Materials Management, Purchasing and Logistics (BME), we support the BME Compliance Initiative in the fight against corruption, cartels and child labor.
- Access to Health Charter: Access to health (A2H) is of great strategic importance to us. Our A2H strategy aims to help overcome access obstacles faced by underserved populations and communities in developing health care systems. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this complex and multifaceted challenge, which is why we've tailored our programs and initiatives to suit global, regional and local needs. Our holistic, needs-driven approach consists of four strategic components: Availability, Affordability, Awareness, and Accessibility. To achieve sustainable results, we focus especially on partnerships, collaboration and ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders.
We have consolidated our principles into our Access to Health in Developing Countries Charter, which addresses the topics of pricing, intellectual property, research and development for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), and anti-counterfeiting measures, as well as medicine donations and philanthropic activities.
We support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and are partnering with various other organizations to achieve them. Access to health is an integral component of these efforts. In low- to middle-income countries, we work with global stakeholders in helping strengthen health systems.
Taking action and gauging the results
- Compliance management: The Group function Compliance, headed by the Group Compliance Officer (GCO) and supported by further specialists, is responsible for maintaining and driving our compliance program.
At our subsidiaries, local compliance officers are responsible for implementing our compliance measures. Group Compliance provides these officers with guidance as well as training documents, along with other support. At this time, local compliance officers report to the GCO at regular intervals. In 2015, we appointed a compliance officer for each of our business sectors (Healthcare, Performance Materials and Life Science) in order to better address the needs of each specific business sector.
The GCO reports at least once a month to our Executive Board, updating them on compliance activities, compliance risks, and serious compliance violations. At least once a year, the Executive Board updates our supervisory bodies on key compliance issues. Our compliance management procedures are continuously adapted to meet current requirements.
- Compliance training: We provide our employees with regular training on compliance issues via classroom
courses and online classes. In 2015, a total of 20,404 persons completed anti-corruption courses. In 2014, we designed an e-course to introduce our new anti-corruption guidelines, and in 2015 we translated the course into 16 different languages, which has allowed numerous employees worldwide to complete the course in their local language. In 2015, we also developed a special e-course for our pharmaceutical business that explains the guidelines specific to this field. In addition, we regularly review our compliance training plan, adapting classes and workshops in response to new developments and local needs.
- Compliance audits: The Group function Internal Auditing conducts audits Group-wide. Our audit program covers the topic of anti-corruption as well as the requirements of our Human Rights Charter, all of which are reviewed during the general audits conducted on our facilities. In the course of the compliance audits, Internal Auditing verifies whether compliance guidelines, processes and structures are in place and assesses the quality thereof. We furthermore check whether individual facilities are violating our Code of Conduct or the social standards stipulated in our Human Rights Charter. A total of 49 anti-corruption audits were conducted in 2015. Across 31 countries, we also performed 41 audits relating to the workplace clause of our Human Rights Charter. The audits found no violations.
- Central Speak-Up Line for compliance violations: All employees are called upon to report compliance violations to their supervisor, Legal, HR, or other relevant departments. Employees can report violations via the Speak-Up Line, a central reporting system, doing so in their respective national language. Available as a telephone hotline or a web-based application, they can report such incidents free of charge and, if they wish, anonymously.
The reports received are reviewed by the Group Compliance Officer (GCO) and submitted to the Compliance Committee, which then coordinates the necessary investigation into the matter. The Compliance Committee consists of senior representatives from Internal Auditing, Compliance, Group Security, Data Security, and Human Resources. They monitor the handling of reported cases and initiate appropriate corrective measures, as needed. Disciplinary actions are also taken, where necessary, against the employee who has committed a compliance violation. These actions may range from a simple warning up to dismissal of the employee, depending on the severity of the violation.
In 2015, 33 compliance reports were received via the Speak-Up Line, eight of which were confirmed as being violations of our Code of Conduct. These incidents were investigated and reported to the Compliance Committee; corrective actions were taken and monitored by the Group Compliance Officer. We take such misconduct very seriously and will not hesitate to take appropriate action, including dismissal in accordance with applicable laws. The majority of these compliance violations were attributed to the misconduct of individual employees; they represented minor, isolated incidents which mostly entailed improper distribution and marketing methods to boost sales, or inappropriate interactions with medical professionals. In all cases, disciplinary action was taken against the employees responsible for the infractions.
- Supplier management: Supplier management is one of Group Procurement's key tasks; it comprises the entire process of assessing, rating, developing, and terminating vendor relationships. Underpinned by a transparent, globally standardized approach, our supplier management efforts aim to optimize the performance of our entire supply chain in order to create added value for our company. We expect our suppliers to obey fundamental rules, such as bans on corruption and child labor, and we set minimum requirements regarding work standards.
In the course of 2015, we largely replaced the supplier CR assessments and CR audits used previously with the equivalent tools set forth in the Together for Sustainability (TfS) standards. The audit results can be utilized by all TfS member companies. We thus have access not only to the evaluations of suppliers selected because of their risk rating, but also to assessments and audit results for other vendors who provide us goods and services.
More detailed information can be found under Suppliers.
- Our Praziquantel Donation Program: Our efforts to combat schistosomiasis represent a key element in our access to health activities. We've been supporting the World Health Organziation (WHO) since 2007 in the fight against this global tropical worm disease in Africa. Since launching the program, we have donated more than 340 million praziquantel tablets. In total, over 74 million patients have been treated, primarily school age children. Our goal is to continue the fight until the disease has been eliminated in Africa. To this end, we are increasing the number of tablets donated and intend to provide WHO with up to 250 million tablets per year.
More detailed information on our product donations can be found under Community.
- Global Schistosomiasis Alliance: To combat schistosomiasis over the long term, in May 2014 we called on various stakeholders engaged in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) to form the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance (GSA). The GSA's founding members include, among others, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, World Vision, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The alliance seeks to pool resources and overcome the obstacles to eliminating schistosomiasis worldwide. Three working groups kicked off at the end of 2014. The first working group helps monitor, manage and track the distribution of praziquantel tablets. The second one is working to boost awareness of schistosomiasis in order to raise additional funds and resources. The third group is dedicated to research and development.
Capacity Advancement Program (CAP): Through our Capacity Advancement Program (CAP), we are striving to improve the quality of and access to healthcare in Africa and Asia. The program also seeks to increase awareness and prevention of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer, as well as to educate the public about fertility treatment. Our goals are to raise awareness of these conditions by educating healthcare providers, as well as to support healthcare systems with measures to prevent, diagnose and treat them effectively.
In 2015, we provided 7,000 students at African and Asian universities with training to teach them how to manage chronic diseases. By the end of 2018, we intend to provide more than 25,000 students in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East with advanced training on managing and preventing non-infectious diseases.
To fight infertility, we launched the More than a Mother campaign in Kenya in 2015, an initiative that provides med students and general practitioners with crucial medical knowledge on infertility. Additionally, we intend to help the Kenyan government develop concepts that facilitate access to safer, more effective infertility treatment. In Africa, women affected by infertility are often severely stigmatized, which is why the campaign also seeks to challenge the perception of the roles and worth of these women in society.
On top of this, in May 2015 we also launched the Cancer Control Program in partnership with the Africa Oxford Cancer Foundation and the Universities of Nairobi (Kenya), Makerere (Uganda) and Muhimbili (Tanzania). Through this program, we are seeking to raise the early detection rates of cancer as well as improve the prevention of cancer in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. To this end, we are providing training to students and healthcare professionals, as well as educating communities through awareness campaigns.