Major global trends such as a growing population, increasing life expectancy, resource scarcity, and digitalization are transforming our society and our lives. To cope with these challenges and changes, policy makers and civil society must join forces with the private sector to find solutions. For us, this transformation is driving the development of sustainable, personalized and interconnected products.
Our approach: Looking, listening and doing better
We are aware that as a leading science and technology company our business operations impact our environment and the people around us. We have therefore made responsible conduct a pillar of our corporate culture, the bedrock of our sustained success. Through our innovative top-quality products within our Healthcare, Life Science and Performance Materials business sectors, we help resolving global challenges while also bolstering our own financial performance.
Our Group strategy aims to maximize our success, which goes hand in hand both with respecting the interests of our employees, customers, shareholders, and communities, as well as mitigating the ethical, economic and social risks. Our corporate responsibility (CR) strategy is underpinned by our Group strategy, and we focus our resources on those areas where we can have the greatest impact. All our CR activities fall under the heading of “responsible governance”, which for us most importantly means looking, listening and doing better.
We take responsibility for our products, the environment and the people around us – especially for our employees and the communities in which we operate. Through our products, we endeavor to meet people’s current and future needs. In doing so, safety and ethical aspects matter just as much to us as business success. In our production activities, we seek to impact the environment as little as possible, which requires safe manufacturing techniques, high environmental standards and strict quality management. Furthermore, we strengthen our company by recruiting, developing and motivating talented employees. We strive to set an example for ethical conduct and actively contribute to the communities we live in.
To quickly identify new global trends and challenges, we engage in dialogues and initiatives, share lessons learned and best practices with other companies in our industry, and evaluate media coverage. This allows us to minimize risks while also leveraging business opportunities that arise.
In 2018, we realigned our CR strategy, focusing more heavily on generating sustainable added value for ourselves as a company and for society. To achieve this, we are taking a shared value approach. In revising our strategy, we modified our three strategic spheres of activity to bring them more in line with our businesses. Our focus areas are now “Global Health”, “Sustainable Solutions” and “Broad Minds”.
An estimated 400 million people in low- and middle-income countries lack access to adequate, affordable primary healthcare. Hand in hand with our partners, we help provide local solutions and develop treatments for neglected tropical diseases. For instance, we are fighting schistosomiasis using the active ingredient praziquantel. Through our Global Health Institute, we are developing diagnostics, therapies and preventive solutions to address infectious diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis. Moreover, we are working on therapeutic challenges such as antimicrobial resistance. You can find more information under “Health for all”.
We are constantly working to improve the sustainability footprint of our products – even during their use phase – which helps our customers achieve their own sustainability goals. To this end, we have established systematic approaches for product development such as our Design for Sustainability program. A program of our Life Science business sector, this initiative allows us to assess the sustainability of products under development through techniques such as life cycle analyses. You can find more information under “Sustainable product design”.
As a science and technology company, we endeavor to excite people about science, inspire curiosity and help their creativity take flight. Our goal is to bolster our reputation in the field of science, especially in those areas where we have particular expertise. We not only support educational programs for schools, but also back pioneering research at institutes of higher learning. Because music and literature inspire people, we moreover promote a number of cultural initiatives worldwide. Creativity and curiosity are the bedrock of science, culture and art and also underpin our holistic approach. You can find more information under “Broad Minds”.
Corporate responsibility entwined with governance
Our CR strategy is approved by our Executive Board, which meets regularly to make decisions regarding our CR goals and reporting. Also tasked with overseeing corporate responsibility, our Group function Corporate Affairs reports to the chairman of the Executive Board. We moreover have a CR Committee in place to steer the implementation of our CR strategy and submit recommendations regarding CR goals to the Executive Board. While our Executive Board chairman bears overall responsibility for this body, it is chaired by the head of our Group CR Group unit and consists of representatives from our business sectors as well as from relevant Group functions such as EQ, HR, Compliance, and Procurement.
Our CR Committee also reviews our CR strategy to ensure that it covers the issues material to our company. In doing so, we draw on regular input from our stakeholders as well as the results of materiality assessments. This council also defines measures to enact our CR strategy and assesses the success of these efforts. In addition, it ensures that the initiatives of our business sectors, Group functions and subsidiaries align with our Group-wide CR strategy. The measures adopted by the CR Committee are implemented by our line managers as well as by interdisciplinary project teams.
In 2018, the CR Committee met three times a year, with its sessions focusing on human rights, environmental and social standards in the supply chain, animal welfare, bioethical principles, and community involvement. Updating our CR strategy was also on the agenda.
Greater focus on UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Our CR activities align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The materiality analysis we conducted this year assessed the contribution our key material topics made to the SDGs. In this analysis, we investigated our direct and indirect impact on the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs. In general, we particularly focus our CR efforts on those objectives that best reflect our business ethos. You can find more information on our support for these goals under “Sustainable Development Goals”.
Understanding and improving the impacts of our operations
We work to mitigate the ethical, financial and legal risks of our business activities, thereby ensuring our social license to operate. To this end, we have put comprehensive structures and systems in place to ensure compliance with legal requirements, along with ethical, social and ecological standards, all of which are explained in detail in the individual sections of this report.