Latest news & stories

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

Human Rights Charter

Merck is a company striving for responsible conduct in our operations, the communities where we operate, our supply chain and our overall business relationships worldwide. We do our business on the basis of a strong ethical foundation, which has always been an integral part of our corporate culture and is reflected in our Mission Statement and our Values. Respecting and supporting human rights is an integral part of this responsibility.

Our Board, all managers, employees and contractors bear a responsibility to act in a way that respects human rights as outlined in our Human Rights Charter. We also expect and encourage our business partners and other parties directly linked to our operations, products or services, to respect human rights and to practice human rights due diligence. 

Our Human Rights Charter supports our commitment to respecting and protecting human rights. Our Human Rights Charter consolidates and complements existing human rights regulations and guidelines, such as our Code of Conduct, our Environment, Health and Safety Policy, our Responsible Sourcing Principles and our Charter on Access to Health in Developing Countries. 

Code of Conduct

Environment, Health and Safety Policy

Stem Cells and Human Cloning Principle

Fertility Research Policy

Use and Handling of Nanomaterials

Charter on Access to Health in Developing Countries

Our Approach

Pharmaceutical Product Donations

Fake Medicines

R&D for NTDs and Priority Communicable Diseases

Pharmaceutical Product Pricing

Intellectual Property

Merck Responsible Sourcing Principles

Biopharma Policies (Clinical Research)

How are human rights managed within your company?

Based on a human rights risk assessment, we identified the following areas that cover our most significant risks and opportunities to impact human rights, and our greatest areas of responsibility.

  • Access to Health
  • Bribery and Corruption
  • Communities
  • Privacy
  • Product Stewardship
  • Research Ethics
  • Security
  • Supply Chain

These areas are managed by different parts of the company, as described in our CR Report and our Global Compact Communication on Progress.

Below a few examples: 

Access to health

Access to health (A2H) is of great strategic importance to us. Our A2H strategy aims to help overcome access obstacles faced by underserved populations and communities in developing health care systems. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this complex and multifaceted challenge, which is why we've tailored our programs and initiatives to suit global, regional and local needs. Our holistic, needs-driven approach consists of four strategic components: Availability, Affordability, Awareness, and Accessibility. To achieve sustainable results, we focus especially on partnerships, collaboration and ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders. We have consolidated our principles into our Access to Health in Developing Countries Charter, which addresses the topics of pricing, intellectual property, research and development for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), and anti-counterfeiting measures, as well as medicine donations and philanthropic activities.

Merck Praziquantel Donation Program: Our efforts to combat schistosomiasis represent a key element in our access to health activities. We've been supporting the World Health Organziation (WHO) since 2007 in the fight against this global tropical worm disease in Africa. Since launching the program, we have donated more than 340 million praziquantel tablets. In total, over 74 million patients have been treated, primarily school age children. Our goal is to continue the fight until the disease has been eliminated in Africa. To this end, we are increasing the number of tablets donated and intend to provide WHO with up to 250 million tablets per year.
More detailed information on our product donations can be found under in our CR Report.

Global Schistosomiasis Alliance:To combat schistosomiasis over the long term, in May 2014 we called on various stakeholders engaged in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) to form the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance (GSA). The GSA's founding members include, among others, Merck, World Vision, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The alliance seeks to pool resources and overcome the obstacles to eliminating schistosomiasis worldwide. Three working groups kicked off at the end of 2014. The first working group helps monitor, manage and track the distribution of praziquantel tablets. The second one is working to boost awareness of schistosomiasis in order to raise additional funds and resources. The third group is dedicated to research and development.

Capacity Advancement Program (CAP): Through our Capacity Advancement Program (CAP), we are striving to improve the quality of and access to healthcare in Africa and Asia. The program also seeks to increase awareness and prevention of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer, as well as to educate the public about fertility treatment. Our goals are to raise awareness of these conditions by educating healthcare providers, as well as to support healthcare systems with measures to prevent, diagnose and treat them effectively.
In 2015, we provided 7,000 students at African and Asian universities with training to teach them how to manage chronic diseases. By the end of 2018, we intend to provide more than 25,000 students in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East with advanced training on managing and preventing non-infectious diseases.
To fight infertility, we launched the More than a Mother campaign in Kenya in 2015, an initiative that provides med students and general practitioners with crucial medical knowledge on infertility. Additionally, we intend to help the Kenyan government develop concepts that facilitate access to safer, more effective infertility treatment. In Africa, women affected by infertility are often severely stigmatized, which is why the campaign also seeks to challenge the perception of the roles and worth of these women in society.
On top of this, in May 2015 we also launched the Cancer Control Program in partnership with the Africa Oxford Cancer Foundation and the Universities of Nairobi (Kenya), Makerere (Uganda) and Muhimbili (Tanzania). Through this program, we are seeking to raise the early detection rates of cancer as well as improve the prevention of cancer in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. To this end, we are providing training to students and healthcare professionals, as well as educating communities through awareness campaigns. 

Supply chain:

Through our Group Procurement Policy, we ensure that our procurement processes embody corporate responsibility standards.This includes the selection, assessment and management of suppliers. This policy reflects numerous internal and external guidelines, such as our Code of Conduct, our Human Rights Charter, and our EHS policy.

To complement our Procurement Policy, we have developed the Merck Responsible Sourcing Principles and integrated them Group-wide into our general terms and conditions. These principles define what we require of our suppliers with regard to responsible conduct, highlighting the responsibility of our suppliers to apply our corporate responsibility standards to their upstream value chain.
As a member company of the German Federal Association for Materials Management, Purchasing and Logistics (BME), we support the BME Compliance Initiative in the fight against corruption, cartels and child labor.

Supplier management is one of Group Procurement's key tasks; it comprises the entire process of assessing, rating, developing, and terminating vendor relationships. Underpinned by a transparent, globally standardized approach, our supplier management efforts aim to optimize the performance of our entire supply chain in order to create added value for Merck. We expect our suppliers to obey fundamental rules, such as bans on corruption and child labor, and we set minimum requirements regarding work standards.
In the course of 2015, we largely replaced the supplier CR assessments and CR audits used previously with the equivalent tools set forth in the Together for Sustainability (TfS) standards. The audit results can be utilized by all TfS member companies. We thus have access not only to the evaluations of suppliers selected because of their risk rating, but also to assessments and audit results for other vendors who provide us goods and services. 

Business partner risk management:

Effective compliance management does not stop at our front door, which is why we set the highest standards for the conduct of our business partners. The selection process for business associates is governed by our Global Business Partner Risk Management Guideline. This policy stipulates that Merck shall only do business with partners who comply with all applicable laws; who do not engage in bribery; who adhere to environmental, health and safety guidelines; and who refuse to tolerate discrimination. Furthermore, we require our partners to demonstrate a commitment to internationally recognized human rights and labor standards, as well as to the compliance standards defined in our Code of Conduct. We also audit existing business relationships, usually when it's time to renew a contract.

If we identify red flags, we may consider rejecting potential business partners or even terminating the business relationship. However, our business associates are frequently willing to modify their structures and processes to meet our stringent compliance requirements. Since implementing this process in 2013, nearly 1,500 business partners have undergone this audit.

In 2015, we introduced compliance training in eight languages for the employees of our business associates. The training is mandatory for anyone who comes into contact with Merck or Merck's products in the course of their work. It focuses on general compliance, corruption prevention, and competition law.

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?

In 2012, we conducted an extensive human rights risk assessment, which aimed to identify the human rights risks that arise from our activities as an international company. Employees from various parts of the company contributed in this process.

Based on the results of this assessment, Merck adopted a Group-wide Human Rights Charter  at the end of 2013, which underscores our commitment to respecting and protecting human rights. This Charter was developed with input from key business functions and from external stakeholders and approved by Merck’s Executive Board. In the course of drafting our Human Rights Charter, we asked external stakeholders for their opinion on our approach to human rights and then considered the situation from this external perspective. Among these stakeholders were business and human rights experts from various countries, trade unions, associations, and specialists in individual topics addressed in the charter.

At the end of 2014, Merck conducted an HRIA in an emerging country. While we wish to further expand our strong market position in emerging economies, we are aware that these countries pose a higher risk of human rights violations. Through the HRIA, we aimed to gain a better understanding of how our business operations and business relationships impact human rights, to ascertain whether the requirements of our Human Rights Charter are being fulfilled, and predict the risk of human rights violations. We furthermore wished to identify ways to prevent human rights violations. In this process, a number of Merck-internal as well as external stakeholders have been involved.

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

There are specific areas that have been identified as priorities for our industry and our company. Based on a human rights risk assessment, we identified the following areas that cover our most significant risks and opportunities to impact human rights, and our greatest areas of responsibility.

  • Access to Health
  • Bribery and Corruption
  • Communities
  • Privacy
  • Product Stewardship
  • Research Ethics
  • Security
  • Supply Chain
  • Workplace

Examples: please see answer to Question 3 (Management).

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

We communicate externally in our Corporate Responsibility Report and the Global Compact Communication on Progress.

Internally, we communicate via our Intranet on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, our Human Rights Charter and challenges we face.

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?

Central SpeakUp Line: All employees are called upon to report compliance violations to their supervisor, Legal, HR, or other relevant departments. Employees can report violations via the SpeakUp Line, a central reporting system, doing so in their respective national language. Available as a telephone hotline or a web-based application, they can report such incidents free of charge and, if they wish, anonymously.

The reports received are reviewed by the Group Compliance Officer (GCO) and submitted to the Compliance Committee, which then coordinates the necessary investigation into the matter. The Compliance Committee consists of senior representatives from Internal Auditing, Compliance, Group Security, Data Security, and Human Resources. They monitor the handling of reported cases and initiate appropriate corrective measures, as needed. Disciplinary actions are also taken, where necessary, against the employee who has committed a compliance violation. These actions may range from a simple warning up to dismissal of the employee, depending on the severity of the violation.

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

Merck is a member of the UN Global Compact since 2005. We are also a member of the Business & Human Rights Peer Learning Group  within the German Global Compact Network  which aims to promote best practice sharing with regard to business and human rights.

At the end of 2014, we joined the industry initiative Together for Sustainability (TfS). The Together for Sustainability (TfS) initiative, founded by companies in the chemical industry, aims to systematically assess and improve sustainability sourcing practices across the globe, including ecological and social aspects.

In October 2015, we joined the Alliance for Integrity (AfIn), an initiative founded in October 2015 by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), the German Global Compact Network, and the Federation of German Industry. The aim of the AfIn is to develop practical procedures to improve the framework for compliance, thereby furthering the fight against corruption.