First and foremost, states have a duty to establish a regulatory framework to protect human rights. Particularly for enterprises with global operations, it is important for this framework to be implemented across all countries so as to create uniform competitive conditions. As a company, we in turn also have a duty to uphold human rights, taking steps to ensure that they are not compromised by our business activities.
Commitment to preserving human rights
We are committed to upholding human rights within our sphere of influence and welcome the Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. The UNGPs codify the duty of states to protect human rights as well as the responsibility of companies to respect human rights, providing a framework for how states and businesses should do so.
At the end of 2016, the German federal government adopted a national action plan for implementing these principles. Through our current efforts and initiatives, we are on the right track to fulfilling these requirements.
In the United Kingdom, we are required by the UK Modern Slavery Act to report on the steps we are taking to counter forced labor and human trafficking. Our company intends to issue our first such report in 2017.
Our Human Rights Charter
The UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights encourage companies to continuously assess the actual and potential impact they have on human rights, acting with the necessary due diligence, which includes identifying and managing risks.
We took the first step towards implementing the UNGPs in 2012, when we conducted an extensive, Group-wide human rights risk assessment aimed at identifying the human rights risks arising from our activities. Based on the results of this assessment, we adopted a Group-wide Human Rights Charter in 2013 that affirms our commitment to respecting and protecting human rights while also defining the requirements for our company. This charter unites and complements existing policies and guidelines on human rights, such as our Code of Conduct, our Corporate Environment, Health and Safety Policy and our Charter on Access to Health in Developing Countries.
Stakeholder dialogue on our Human Rights Charter
Our Human Rights Charter was developed after diligent consideration of input from external stakeholders regarding our human rights stance. Among these stakeholders were business and human rights experts from various countries, trade unions, and business federations, as well as experts on specific aspects covered in the planned charter.
Human rights due diligence
We seek to better understand the potential impact of our business activities and relationships on human rights and are examining our processes to identify the measures already in place at our sites that fulfill the function of human rights due diligence. This knowledge will help us adapt our Group-wide human rights due diligence efforts to better meet local needs and to develop approaches to overcome particular challenges. At the same time, we work to view the positive impacts of our operations as an opportunity.
Within the German Global Compact Network (DGCN), we are a member of the Business & Human Rights Peer Learning Group, a working group in which we engage with other companies to share lessons learned as well as successes in implementing human rights due diligence.
Training employees on our Human Rights Charter
In the 2015-2016 period, we used a variety of channels to educate our employees on our Human Rights Charter, including specific Intranet sites on human rights and videos featuring employees explaining how their work affects human rights.
Human rights impact assessment in India
A human rights impact assessment (HRIA) evaluates the actual consequences of a company's operations in an effort to promptly identify any problem areas. At the end of 2014, we conducted our first HRIA in India, which showed that we already have good internal systems and capacities in place for managing human rights risks. However, we intend to expand these structures in order to set a positive example for industry there. As a result of this HRIA, we joined the Alliance for Integrity, a multi-stakeholder initiative seeking to offer practical solutions for countering corruption in emerging economies.
In line with our Human Rights Charter as well as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, we started the process of conducting human rights self-assessments for our subsidiaries in 2016. This aims to help us better understand how our subsidiaries perceive human rights risks and manage them locally, while also raising human rights awareness and creating a foundation for systematic support.
Our subsidiaries took part in an online survey we developed ourselves, providing us with detailed information. We will continue to evaluate this data in the course of 2017, working with the respective departments to identify opportunities to improve Group-wide processes and their local implementation. Taking into account the requirements of the UK Modern Slavery Act, our efforts will focus on issues such as forced labor and human trafficking, as well as labor rights in local supply chains.