Human Rights

Human rights are universal. As a global health care company, Fresenius considers human rights part of our responsibility. We are committed to meet the relevant regulatory requirements and social expectations with respect to due diligence for the respect of human rights. In 2019, we started to identify the areas of our business which could have an impact on human rights: The results show that medical care to patients and the well-being of our more than 300,000 employees are among the engagement areas of our human rights due diligence.

We are aware that the responsibility for respecting human rights extends beyond our own company operations and core business. When cooperating with our suppliers and business partners, both in procurement and in sales and distribution, we consider this already in the selection process. We are working to make supply chains more transparent. With this, we aim to secure supplies and reduce human rights risks in the procurement of vital raw materials, as described in the chapter Supply Chain.

Health is a Human Right

According to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every human being has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and wellbeing. This includes adequate health care. As a globally active health care group, Fresenius contributes to improving access to affordable, high-quality health care in many countries:

  • Around the world, Fresenius Medical Care carries out dialysis treatment every 0.6 seconds.

  • Fresenius Kabi offers comprehensive range of I.V. generic drugs, infusion therapies and clinical nutrition products as well as the devices for administering these products. In the field of biosimilars, Fresenius Kabi focuses on autoimmune diseases and oncology. In 2019, the first biosimilar product by Fresenius Kabi was launched. Within transfusion medicine and cell therapies, Fresenius Kabi offers products for collection of blood components and extracorporeal therapies. With its generics and biosimilar drugs Fresenius Kabi helps to ensure that patients have access to modern, high-quality and affordable therapies.

  • Over the past five years, Fresenius Helios has invested more than €2 billion in Germany and Spain to modernize and further develop its clinical portfolio.

  • Fresenius Vamed is also active in countries where the health care infrastructure is still under development and thereby contributes to enabling patients’ access to health care facilities.

Our approach

GRI 102-41

Fresenius is committed to respecting human rights and facilitating their observance. We underline this commitment with a Group-wide Human Rights Statement, which the Management Board adopted in 2018. The statement is based on the international human rights charter of the United Nations (UN) and the fundamental principles of the International Labour Organization (ILO). It covers human rights issues that are of particular importance to our Group. These include among others prohibiting exploitive and illegal child labor or forced labor, preventing discrimination and promoting equal opportunities and creating safe working conditions.

The publication of the statement also marked the starting point for our human rights program: With the program, we want to establish preventive measures to enable Fresenius to avoid human rights risks in its business processes. At the same time, it forms the basis for including human rights risk in our Group-wide risk management. The measures of the human rights program are closely aligned with the UN guiding principles on business and human rights and build on its five elements: Establishment of fundamentals, risk analysis, measures & integration, reporting, grievance mechanisms (see section Human Rights Program below). An overview of the milestones of the human rights program to date is presented on this page.

In 2019, in a comprehensive project involving all business segments, we identified and defined the human rights issues that are relevant to us. These include for example topics like access to health care, working conditions in the supply chain as well as discrimination and equal opportunities. Our business activities and relationships can have impacts on human rights in these areas. This analysis forms the basis for the identification of potential negative impacts and development of measures. As a next step, a Group-wide human rights risk analysis method has been elaborated and initiated in 2020. Based on this, we will define further specific measures for all business segments, in order to identify possible human rights violations at an early stage and to avoid or mitigate them.

Organization and responsibilities
Human Rights Council

In 2019, Fresenius has established a Human Rights Council to drive the implementation and development of our human rights program on Group level. It is composed of representatives of the four business segments and Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA. The ca. 20 members of the Human Rights Council are active in various functions within the Group, including Compliance, Legal, Sustainability, Communication, Purchasing, Human Resources and Medicine and thereby reflect the diverse perspective of the topic. The committee meets quarterly and is intended to promote the exchange of information on current human rights issues across business segments, plan Group-wide initiatives and present new concepts and methods. In 2020, the Human Rights Council met four times.

Realization in the business segments

In each of Fresenius' four business segments, various departments are responsible for planning and implementing human rights activities in their own business segment and in the supply chains. Supported by the Compliance Management Systems (CMS), they carry out training within the Group, e.g. on specific human rights aspects. They also show how the workforce can react and report any misconduct. Certain measures on the respect of human rights can also be part of internal audits. The departments of the business segments, such as purchasing, are also responsible for the selection and commissioning of suppliers.

Guidelines and regulations
Fresenius Human Rights Statement

Our Human Rights Statement is a commitment by Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA and the business segments. Fresenius Medical Care has adopted its own human rights statement. The human rights statements supplement the Codes of Conduct of the business segments and their underlying human rights commitments. The human rights statements can or should be regularly updated as new insights arise or new essential issues need to be added. The topics on which we position ourselves in the Human Rights Statement are set out online on our corporate website

In the Human Rights Statement, we position ourselves on the following topics:

  • Prohibiting exploitive and illegal child labor or forced labor
    GRI 408-1 and GRI 409-1

    Taking responsibility for our employees is part of our corporate philosophy. We do not tolerate violence, threats of violence or other forms of coercion. We feel especially obliged to protect children from exploitation. We therefore strictly prohibit the use, support or acceptance of exploitative and illegal child or forced labor. Processes are in place in the business segments to comply with applicable laws on the prevention of exploitative and illegal child or forced labor. If laws in individual countries require it, we confirm on the respective country websites that these laws are observed. We also expect our business partners to comply with the applicable laws.

  • Preventing discrimination and promoting equal opportunities

    We support equal opportunities for all people and oppose discrimination of any kind. No one may be discriminated against, for example, on the basis of skin color, race, gender, religion, political views, age, physical condition, sexual orientation, appearance or other personal characteristics. We also do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of membership of trade unions or employee interest groups. We strive for an open, fair and respectful cooperation. All four business segments have anchored these principles in their codes of conduct. Fresenius Kabi has defined company values for all employees, which foster a common understanding of the corporate culture worldwide. They underline the importance of respectful collaboration between all employees. The values are also part of Fresenius Kabi's Code of Conduct and quality management handbook. Fresenius Helios pays particular attention to the compatibility of family and career, especially for employees working shifts or on call, and provides or supports childcare services; in this way, the company aims to ensure more equal opportunities in everyday working life. In 2020, Fresenius Medical Care further specified it´s commitment in a global Policy „Prohibition of Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Bullying“. With these and other exemplary measures, we promote a non-discriminatory corporate culture throughout the Group.

  • Creating safe working conditions

    We ensure that working conditions are fair and safe for all employees. Our objective is to offer all employees a secure and productive workplace. We implement the necessary health and safety measures for our employees.

  • Respect the right to freedom of association and collective agreements
    GRI 407-1

    We respect freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Within the framework of local laws, our employees may join trade unions, establish employee representatives and engage in collective bargaining through these. As described in our Code of Conduct, we promote open and direct communication with all employees. No one may be discriminated against on the basis of membership of trade unions or employee representation.

  • Protecting personal data

    We respect the privacy of every person. We therefore take responsibility for protecting the personal data of patients, employees, customers and suppliers. We are aware of the high data protection standards required to maintain the trust between patients and their health care provider. We structure the processes for handling patient data accordingly. All four business segments and Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA have comprehensive data protection management systems that ensure careful handling of data provided.

  • Considering the impact on the environment

    We are committed to protecting nature as the basis of life, conserving resources and minimizing our impact on the environment. It is a common goal to preserve natural resources for future generations. Accordingly, we comply with all applicable legal requirements and, in addition, continuously develop our environmental protection measures. This includes the handling of conflict minerals, insofar as they are relevant in procurement processes (see

  • Assuming responsibility in the supply chain

    We expect our suppliers and business partners to commit themselves to ethical standards of conduct in their daily business, and towards employees, society and the environment. This includes the described areas in relation to human rights (see chapter Supply Chain).

Human rights program

We respect and support human rights as defined in international standards, e.g. the United Nations Charter of Human Rights and the Fundamental Principles of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Our actions are based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were established in Germany through the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP) and the CSRCSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)CSR refers to the social responsibility of companies. Their operations can affect economic, social, and environmental conditions all over the world. reporting obligation. The measures of our human rights program are based on these principles and are continuously under further development, as the graph shows.

Our goals

Our primary goal is to establish appropriate human rights measures for Fresenius, in order to create a solid foundation for the company. Further, we aim to reduce the possible negative human rights impact of our business activities and supply chain, by continually developing these measures.

Progress and measures in 2020

Initial risk analysis with identification of topics

In 2019, we launched a Group-wide project on human rights due diligence: We identified those human rights issues and fields of action in all business segments that are particularly relevant to our value chains. In doing so, we considered various factors: In addition to the business models of the business segments, current public debates were taken into account. We also examined current regulatory developments such as National Action Plans (NAPs) on business and human rights.

Risk assessment

On the basis of these identified topics, we developed a methodology for assessing human rights risks (Human Rights Risk Assessment) in the reporting year 2020, together with an external partner and presented it in the Human Rights Council. This methodology takes into account, on the one hand, the severity of the potential human rights risks, e.g., the impact on the people affected and the possibility of restoring the situation. It also takes into account the likelihood of a potential violation of human rights. The Human Rights Risk Assessment will be integrated into Group-wide risk management. The Human Rights Risk Assessment is done by means of moderated workshops in which various relevant business segment departments assess individual risks in joint discussions. At the same time, these workshops foster awareness of human rights issues within the Group. The implementation of the human rights risk assessment has already been started in several business segments. Helios Spain, for example, has implemented the assessment, analyzing their potential risks and opportunities for improvement with respect to human rights with a focus on labor topics in 2020. Implementation in all business segments will be continued in the coming year. In the coming year, topics of the supply and value chain will be the focus of activities.

Human rights training

In 2020, Fresenius Kabi supplemented the e-learning training on the Fresenius Kabi Code of Conduct with a chapter on the topic of human rights. It provides a general introduction to human rights and the responsibility of companies to respect human rights. Employees are familiarized with the content of the human rights statement and the company’s positions on illegal child or forced labor, discrimination and equal opportunity, safe working conditions, the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining, protecting personal data, the influence on the environment and responsibility in the supply chain. An e-learning on the Fresenius Kabi Code of Conduct including a human rights chapter is planned to be rolled out at the beginning of 2021.

Fresenius Medical Care for example, held virtual awareness sessions to inform leadership teams about their global Human Rights, Workplace Rights and Labor and Employment Principles in 2020. They are planning to incorporate our requirements and expectations with regard to human rights to a greater extent in the mandatory training for employees on their Code of Ethics and Business Conduct in 2021. Fresenius Medical Care will also include the topic in training programs for procurement personnel on their new Supplier Code of Conduct.

Medical initiatives and projects to improve access to health care

The four business segments set their focus in their contribution to improving access to health care worldwide. Fresenius Medical Care support the development of infrastructure for renal care and cooperates with authorities to offer affordable care to a growing number of patients. With the aid organization Friedensdorf International, Fresenius Helios offers free treatment for children from crisis regions in German Helios clinics. In 2020, Fresenius Kabi, for example, donated essential medicines for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Brazil. Fresenius Vamed supports development aid on the maintenance of health care for example by providing medical technology services for university hospital Owendo in Libreville/Gabun. In addition, the “Club lifetime”, which was founded by Fresenius Vamed in 2005 aims to make an important contribution to the sustainable development for employees and to increase private and occupational health awareness through comprehensive information. The “Club lifetime” recognizes health in a holistic manner and provides sustainable health promotion for employees taking into account social, biological and psychological factors as well as the work environment.

Complaint mechanisms and reporting channels

Employees of all business segments and of Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA can raise their concerns directly with their managers. Employees and external stakeholders may also use dedicated complaint systems to provide information or use designated e-mail addresses to draw attention to possible violations of human rights or other violations. We provide information on these systems in the chapter Compliance. We strive to continuously improve our processes and, as part of our duty of care, we also analyze how we can further optimize the complaint mechanisms. Based on the requirements of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the EU Directive on protection against whistleblowers, we developed specific criteria for complaint mechanisms or procedures in 2020.Based on these criteria, an assessment of the reporting system of Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA was conducted this year. The business segments will observe the developments in this area and adapt their processes as needed taking into account the developed criteria.

We are committed to protecting persons reporting complaints in different ways. Therefore, reports can also be made anonymously. Confidential treatment of incoming reports is described in respective guidelines. In addition, at Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA and Fresenius Kabi, ombudsman bodies have been set up. These carry out a preliminary assessment of reports received. We raise awareness for the possibility of reporting potential violations through externally accessible websites. These channels are also accessible to the employees of suppliers.

If we find substantiated concerns or violations of laws and policies, we take appropriate measures. We use the results of internal reviews and reports to review our business processes and implement corrective or improvement measures where necessary.


If we identify possible defects or shortcomings in products or therapies, we make them transparent and take necessary measures. Many supplier contracts stipulate that our suppliers may be audited; we make use of this right if necessary. Patient safety is the top priority in clinical studies. We comply with ethical, medical and legal requirements and react as soon as there are indications of deviations. Our employees and managers receive training on the respective Code of Conduct. In this way, we ensure that our values and principles of conduct remain anchored in the consciousness of the workforce.

Data Protection

Supply Chain