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Responding department: Sustainability Management, Corporate Communications

Does your company have a publicly available commitment to respect human rights?

Our corporate culture is built around our obligation to respect the personal dignity, privacy and personal rights of all employees, as well as applying the principle of equal treatment. As long ago as 1994, we declared in our corporate mission that we respect the social values of the countries and cultural spheres in which we operate. We acknowledge our responsibility to respect and promote human rights within our sphere of influence. We underscored this when we introduced our Code of Conduct ([link]) in 2000 and when we joined the United Nations Global Compact in 2003. Our Social Standards ([link]), which we introduced in 2006, serve as a framework for decision-making within our sphere of influence, also in relation to human rights and fundamental labor rights.

Together with our Vision and Values, our Code of Conduct, our Code of Corporate Sustainability, our Purchasing Standards, our Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Standards, and our Sustainably Sourcing Policy, the Henkel Social Standards form the basis for the implementation of these values in the company’s compliance and management system. They also provide the foundation for applying the United Nations Global Compact principles to which Henkel committed in 2003. The Standards apply to Henkel’s business operations worldwide complementing local legal requirements wherever Henkel conducts business.

All our global guidelines and standards mentioned above, particularly our Corporate Purchasing Standard and our Sustainable Sourcing Policy, are applicable to our partners in the supply chain. Our Sustainable Sourcing Policy sets out material specific requirements for our suppliers such as on palm and palm kernel oil as well as on metals. In addition, compliance with the cross-sector Code of Conduct of the German Association of Materials Management, Purchasing, and Logistics (BME) ([link]) is mandatory for all of Henkel’s suppliers worldwide. The code is based on the 10 principles of the United Nations Global Compact and includes the following statement: “The signing / acceding company respects and supports compliance of internationally recognized human rights.”

Our Social Standards ([link]) contain the most detailed information about our acknowledgment of human rights, but must be viewed as one element within our set of codes and standards.

Additional corporate policies that relate to the company’s human rights responsibilities are:

Vision & Values
Code of Conduct
Code of Corporate Sustainability
SHE Standards
Sustainable Sourcing Policy
BME Code of Conduct

How are human rights governed in your company?

Our policy of doing business in an ethical and legal manner is inseparably linked with the respect for human rights, the customs, traditions and the social values of the countries in which we operate.

The Henkel Management Board bears overall responsibility for our sustainability strategy and for our Compliance organization. Of course, this also includes the respect for human rights that we have anchored in our codes and standards. Chaired by a Management Board member and reflecting all areas of the company, the Sustainability Council steers our sustainability activities as a central decision-making body. The business units are responsible for putting our sustainability strategy into operational action.

Henkel’s compliance organization ensures global compliance with laws and internal standards, including compliance with our Social Standards.

How are human rights managed within your company?

Henkel has clear processes in place to identify and assess relevant social impacts – including deleterious effects on human rights and fundamental labor rights - and ensure that, where necessary, appropriate measures for remediation are initiated.

To ensure that our Standards are firmly anchored in our company and daily business decisions at our sites around the world, we offer e-learning and regular training courses.

Through our company wide Corporate Audit approach, we conduct due diligence and check compliance with our Standards on a regular basis, including our Social Standards, which cover the related human rights and fundamental labor rights laws. We react forcefully to violations of laws, codes and standards which includes misconduct regarding human rights. Where necessary, we initiate appropriate disciplinary measures.

Analyzing human rights risk in global supply chains is part of our early warning system for sustainability risks across global procurement markets. To define the risk potential of procurement markets we focus on risk countries identified by international specialist institutes. In addition, we evaluate risk value chains – industries and sectors posing a potential specific risk for our company. This risk analysis is reviewed on an annual basis and adapted if necessary.

Compliance with the cross-sector Code of Conduct of the German Association of Materials Management, Purchasing, and Logistics (BME) or a comparable code of conduct is mandatory for all of Henkel’s suppliers worldwide.

We check supplier compliance with our standards through self-evaluations of our suppliers based on questionnaires, as well as by using the results of assessments and audits performed by independent auditors through the industry audit program “Together for Sustainability –The Chemical Initiative for Sustainable Supply Chains”. In case of repeated serious non-compliance, we terminate the supplier relationship. We are also working to improve our suppliers’ sustainability performance – including improvements in human rights standards – and are striving to initiate positive changes, for example, through training and joint projects. Our goal for 2020 is to work with our partners to support the improvement of labor standards for one million workers in our supply chains.

Additional links:

Responsible supply chain process
TfS audit process

What is the company’s approach to the engagement of stakeholders (including workers, and local communities impacted by the company’s activities), on human rights issues?

Understanding the social demands that stakeholders of all kinds place on the company is a key component of our sustainability management. That is why we are open to dialog with all stakeholders, including our customers, consumers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, local communities, government authorities, associations and non-governmental organizations. We discuss concrete questions through direct dialog with relevant stakeholders.

From an early stage, Henkel has been involved in discussions related to human rights with external experts such as the consulting company TwentyFifty, as well as non-governmental organizations, and has also carried out workshops with its employees. In 2013, we were actively involved in the study "Global Business and Human Rights – Putting Germany to the Test", which was carried out by the German Watch organization. The study inspected the German economy with regard to human rights, with the DAX 30 companies in focus. In 2014, we presented our position on "CSR and Human Rights" at a workshop organized by the International Organization of Employers and the employers' organization BusinessEurope. Representatives from our company also participated in a round table discussion on the topic "Human Rights Risk Management" in Bonn, which was organized by the global initiative "The Conference Board".

Stakeholder dialog
Global Business and Human Rights – Putting Germany to the Test

Priority human rights issues: What are some of the priority human rights issues for your company?

The company selected the following from a check list:

  • Health (including workplace health & safety, prevention of pollution)
  • Workplace diversity / non-discrimination
  • Conflict minerals
  • Other: social standards in our supply chain

Steps taken with regard to workplace diversity and anti-discrimination:

The diversity of our employees and their individual differences, whether regarding their cultural origins, gender, generation, religious orientation or differing values, abilities and experiences, is essential to our strength and innovative capabilities. Our Diversity & Inclusion campaign in 2015 was designed to further strengthen the understanding of diversity and respectful behavior at Henkel. The Diversity Week event took place for the third year in a row, with numerous activities and events all over the world, making it possible to personally experience the company’s diversity and to emotionally involve employees through their engagement.

Diversity (Henkel Sustainability Report)

Henkel Diversity Website

How are human rights commitments and information about how the company addresses its human rights impacts communicated, internally and externally?

For 25 years, we have published an annual Sustainability Report to communicate our progress in sustainability, including on human rights issues. We also use this publication to report on the number of annual compliance-related violations by employees, as well as the number of audits and subsequently agreed corrective measures. All findings from our corporate audit approach are discussed with local management and shared with top management. Updates on progress of corrective measures are discussed in the respective Executive Committees.

To impart clear rules of conduct to our employees, and especially to avoid any conflicts of interest in everyday work situations, we focus on regular training courses and communication measures. Our managers play a key role with regard to compliance. Given their position within the company, they bear a special responsibility to set an example for their staff. For this reason, all of our 10,400 managers across the globe must participate twice a year in our mandatory Compliance eLearning program, which addresses many different compliance topics. This also includes human rights and fundamental labor rights.

We engage in external discussions of specific human rights topics through direct dialog with civil society representatives. Examples include our active involvement in the study "Global Business and Human Rights – Putting Germany to the Test", which was carried out by the German Watch organization, as well as our participation in a round table discussion on the topic "Human Rights Risk Management" in Bonn, which was organized by the global initiative "The Conference Board".

Henkel Sustainability Report 2015

What provisions does your company have in place to ensure that grievances from workers and affected communities or individuals are heard, and can you provide examples of remedies provided?

Employees, suppliers, their workers or contractors may report serious violations of our Codes and Standards to the Henkel Corporate Compliance Office, by anonymously using a compliance hotline. It is operated by an external service provider and is currently available in multiple languages. All incoming reports are handled by the Henkel Compliance Office. The Chief Compliance Officer is then able to initiate the necessary follow-up procedures. Significant events and figures on the use of the hotline are communicated as part of the regular reporting of our compliance situation.

External stakeholders contact Henkel through the contact form on our website, as well as through the following central email addresses:

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

The email addresses and telephone numbers can also be found on the Henkel website, and are published in our Sustainable Sourcing Policy.

Governance and Compliance 

Sustainability Contacts 

Sustainable Sourcing Policy 

Which external and collaborative human rights initiatives does your company participate in, and what is the nature of your involvement?

Examples of these include multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Fair Labor Association, Global Network Initiative, Voluntary Principles on Security & Human Rights; industry initiatives such as the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition; UN Global Compact; other international, regional or local initiatives.

In 2003, Henkel declared its participation in the United Nations Global Compact. Our membership of the Global Compact represents a public commitment to respecting human rights worldwide, adhering to fundamental labor rights, protecting the environment and acting against all forms of corruption.

To promote sustainable harvesting and use of palm oil throughout the value chain, including respecting human rights, we have been actively supporting the aim of the “Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil” (RSPO) for years and have been an official member of the RSPO since 2008.
In 2011, Henkel and five other companies in the chemical industry established the initiative “Together for Sustainability – The Chemical Initiative for Sustainable Supply Chains” (TfS). It is based on the principles of the United Nations Global Compact and the Responsible Care Initiative of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA). The TfS initiative aims to harmonize the increasingly complex supply chain management processes and to optimize the dialog among worldwide business partners with regard to human rights.

In 2013, Henkel started supporting the Chemie3 initiative of the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI), the Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE) and the German Federation of Chemical Employers’ Associations (BAVC). Chemie3 was formed to further the cause of sustainable development in the chemical industry. It sees sustainability as an obligation to current and future generations and as a strategy for the future in which economic success is coupled with environmental responsibility and social equity. The initiative has developed twelve guidelines to provide orientation for enterprises and inspiration for the international community, and to reinforce the theme of sustainability in the chemical industry.

Associations & international initiatives

Which are the key one, two or three elements of your approach to human rights that been developed or amended since June 2011? Please indicate if these actions were in response to the UN Guiding Principles.

Since the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, we have further improved the quality of our internal auditing on social standards, integrated additional questions into our Compliance e-learning, and further improved due diligence in our global supply chains. We have also created a Sustainable Sourcing Policy.


What are some of the obstacles and challenges that your company encounters in implementing its human rights commitments?

These include:

  • Human rights or the interpretations of the individual rights can sometimes contradict each other, or contradict local laws;
  • States around the world need to meet their obligations; and
  • Human rights due diligence processes must be implemented within the framework of established business processes – for example, supplier assessments – in the most standardized and integrated way possible. This integrated approach must be accepted by stakeholders.