Human rights are universal. As a global healthcare company, Fresenius views the respect for human rights as an integral part of our responsibility. We are committed to meeting the regulatory requirements and social expectations of due diligence for the respect of human rights.
Medical care for patients and the well-being of our more than 300,000 employees are among the most important engagement areas of our human rights due diligence. We are aware that respecting human rights extends beyond our own company operations and core business. We consider human rights issues when selecting and cooperating with our suppliers and business partners, in procurement, sales, and distribution. We expect them, among other requirements, to commit to compliance with the principles set out in our Human Rights Statement. We specify and communicate these expectations in our Code of Conduct for Business Partners. We are working to increase the transparency of our supply chains. The knowledge gained by doing so helps us to ensure secure supplies while reducing human rights risks in the procurement of important raw materials and supplies, as shown in the Supply chain section.
Health is a human right
According to the United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every human being has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being. This includes adequate healthcare. As a globally active healthcare Group, Fresenius contributes to improving access to affordable, high-quality healthcare in many countries.
Fresenius is committed to respecting human rights. We underline this commitment with our Group-wide Human Rights Statement, which the Management Board adopted in 2018 for the first time. The statement is guided by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. It covers our fundamental principles on human rights, which include prohibiting exploitative and illegal child labor or forced labor, preventing discrimination, promoting equal opportunities, and creating safe working conditions.
The adoption and publication of the statement at this time also marked the starting point for our Human Rights Program, which establishes preventive measures helping Fresenius to identify and address human rights risks in its business processes and includes human rights risks 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 (UNGP) and build on its five elements: establishment of fundamentals, risk analysis, measures and integration, reporting, and grievance mechanisms.
In 2019, we identified and defined human rights topics that are of particular importance for the Group in a comprehensive project involving all business segments. They include access to healthcare, working conditions in our own operations and in the supply chain, patient and product safety, health hazards from disposal, and preventing discrimination and promoting equal opportunities. Our business activities and relationships can have impacts on human rights in these areas. In addition, the business segments work on potential issues specific to their business, such as potential environmental impacts related to production. This analysis forms the basis for identifying potential human rights violations and gives us the opportunity to develop necessary measures. In 2020, a Group-wide methodology for human rights risk analysis was initiated to identify and prevent or mitigate human rights violations at an early stage – and to then define further measures in the business segments. We report on the progress achieved in the Progress and measures in 2022 section.
We further advanced the methodology of the human rights risk assessment in the reporting year and aligned it with regulatory requirements, such as the German Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains (Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz).
Milestones of the human rights program
Organization and responsibilities
The Management Board of Fresenius Management SE oversees our Group-wide human rights due diligence program. The Group function Risk & Integrity department is responsible for the Group-wide human rights due diligence approach, such as the Human Rights Risk Assessment methodology, overseeing the implementation of human rights related measures, and driving them forward. The implementation of human rights due diligence lies in the business segments. In the reporting year and as a next step of the Human Rights Program, we started establishing new functions responsible for human rights at Group and business segment level and, thus, started to further strengthening the governance structure. Please refer to the Progress and measures in 2022 section for more information on these changes.
Human Rights Council
In 2019, Fresenius established a Human Rights Council to drive the implementation and development of our Human Rights Program at the Group level. It is composed of representatives of the four business segments and Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA. The approximately 20 members of the Human Rights Council are active in various functions within the Group, including compliance, legal, sustainability, communication, procurement, human resources, and medicine and thus cover the many perspectives of the topic. The committee meets quarterly and promotes information exchange on current human rights topics across the business segments. The participants discuss Group-wide initiatives and present new concepts and methods. In 2022, the Human Rights Council met four times.
Guidelines and regulations
Fresenius Human Rights Statement
Our Human Rights Statement is a Group commitment. It is approved by the Management Board of Fresenius Management SE and was further developed in the reporting year. The representatives of the business segments and departments at the Human Rights Council have been involved in the creation. In addition, Fresenius Medical Care and Fresenius Vamed have adopted own statements regarding human rights. The human rights statements supplement the Codes of Conduct of the business segments and their underlying human rights commitments. The Human Rights Statement must be regularly updated as new insights arise or new essential issues need to be added. In the Human Rights Statement, we position ourselves on various topics both with regard to Fresenius’ employees, and with regard to our suppliers.
We aim to 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.
Before the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation came into force, Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA and its business segments already addressed this relevant issue. We do not purchase conflict minerals directly. However, it cannot be completely ruled out that they have been processed in components and semifinished products that we purchase and further process or use in our products. In this case, our purchasing guidelines apply, as do the relevant Group and business segment codes of conduct for dealing with suppliers and other business partners.
Human Rights Program
We respect and support human rights as defined in international standards, e. g., the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Our actions are guided by the UNGP, which were adopted 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. Directive Implementation Act (CSR-RUG). The measures of our Human Rights Program – which we are continuously developing, as the graphic shows – are based on these principles. We incorporate new requirements and legal frameworks, such as the German Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains, which comes into force on January 1 in 2023, into the ongoing development process and adapt our measures and actions where necessary.
Human rights program
Human rights training
Human rights issues are addressed in different trainings throughout the Fresenius Group. For example, mandatory trainings for employees on the respective Code of Conduct include human rights aspects. Additionally, Fresenius Medical Care conducted awareness-raising sessions with members of the leadership teams of its key business functions in 2022.
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 existing complaint management systems to provide information or use designated e-mail addresses to draw attention to possible human rights violations or other violations. More information on our reporting channels and how we are dealing with potential compliance violations can be found in the Compliance section.
Human rights risk management and assessment
The Fresenius Group has identified human rights issues and fields of action in all business segments that are particularly relevant to our value chains. In doing so, we consider various factors, including business models of the business segments, and current public debates and regulatory developments such as NAPs.
Based on these topics, we developed our Human Rights Risk Assessment methodology and, since 2020, have been rolling it out in the business segments successively. This methodology takes into account the severity of the potential human rights risks, such as the impact on the people affected and the possibility of restoring the situation, as well as the likelihood of a potential human rights violation. Human rights risks have been integrated into Group-wide risk management in 2021. For information on the current status of the roll-out of the Human Rights Risk Assessment, please refer to the Progress and measures in 2022 section.
As a global healthcare company, manufacturing of our products and services depends on the commitment of our more than 300,000 employees and on complex supply chains. We are sensitive that human rights risks and impacts may occur in these supply chains as well as in our own operations. We aim to regularly analyze, and prevent these risks, and initiate remediation measures, if needed – in our supply chain as well as related to our products and services.
Progress and measures in 2022
For Group-wide steering, we started preparing the Group Human Rights Office in the Group function Risk & Integrity of Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA. It will be responsible for steering Group-wide activities for respecting human rights. The office will be responsible for the further development of human rights initiatives within the Fresenius Group. Its responsibilities will also include the coordination of human rights activities with the business segments, risk analysis methodology, monitoring of risk analyses and Group-wide reporting.
For the further implementation of human rights due diligence, each business segment will appoint its own responsible contacts who act as the central human rights function for coordination and implementation of human rights due diligence obligations. These functions began – if already appointed – coordinating, among others, the execution of the risk analyses, the implementation of measures, and the reporting of the business segments. The implementation of the further advanced risk analysis approach has begun in the reporting year in close cooperation with the specialist departments, which will also initiate – if necessary – department-specific adjustments to processes or other measures. These specialist departments include, for example, procurement and human resources.
The members of the Group Human Rights Office, besides the central contact persons for human rights activities in the business segments, will participate in the Human Rights Council, with further representatives from specialist departments.
Updated Human Rights Statement
In the reporting year, we also updated our Human Rights Statement along with the further development of our Human Rights Program. This statement will apply from 2023 onwards and reflects the requirements of the German Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains.
Risk management and assessment
In order to identify, prevent and eliminate or minimize human rights risks, we further advanced our Group-wide risk management in the reporting year. The further advanced approach follows a risk-based approach in which we consider potential risks based on country and industry as well as business segment specific aspects. The risks are then prioritized based on an additional assessment on the potential impact and likelihood as well as the extent to which we as a company might contribute to the materialization of the risk through our business activities. Building on our assessment we will initiate preventive and if necessary remedial measures. Our risk-based approach to analyzing potential human rights risks, the governance and reporting structure, and the requirements for dealing with potential risks are defined in a new Group-wide Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) prepared and will be effective in 2023.
We specified our requirements also with regard to human rights due diligence towards suppliers and business partners in corresponding codes of conduct. Fresenius Kabi updated its Supplier Compliance Clauses and Business Partner Compliance Clauses and added a new section on human rights in the supply chain.
The efforts to respect human rights are a continuous development process for us. We continuously review our measures and results. We adjust processes where necessary on the basis of these insights.
In the reporting year, we received grievances via the existing reporting channels which we also assessed on human rights related aspects. Further information on the reporting channels and topic groups can be found in the Compliance section as well as in the Data protection section.