Human rights


UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Harvard Professor John Ruggie developed a framework consisting of three pillars “Protect, Respect and Remedy”. To “protect” is the duty of the state, to “respect” is the corporate responsibility of companies, and to “remedy” is the shared duty of states and companies to maintain grievance mechanisms. The “Ruggie Framework” was approved by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 when it adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and has received widespread support from governments, business and society. As a result, countries have issued a National Action Plan in order to nationally implement the UNGPs.

Our impact on society

Our overall societal impact has to be assessed holistically; we need to identify risks but also opportunities, implement adequate solutions, and communicate internally and externally on the steps Roche has taken.

As part of our commitment to society, and as explicitly stated in the Roche Corporate Principles, Roche supports and respects human rights and has implemented the UNGPs. We are equally committed to complying with the 10 UN Global Compact Principles; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and the Fundamental Labour Rights stipulated by the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This commitment is embodied in our Roche Corporate Principles, the Roche Group Employment Policy, the Supplier Code of Conduct and in our Roche Position on Respecting Human Rights.

The recognition of human rights ensures that people have a right to be treated with dignity. By applying the principle of “knowing and showing”, Roche is committed to avoiding adverse impacts on human rights by focusing on the perspective of the rights holder. While assessing the impact on the person, we strive to avoid negative impacts on human rights regardless of whether they were directly caused by, contributed to by, or are linked to our business.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has recognised Roche for its public commitment to human rights.

Our principles

We systematically identify potential human rights risks which could negatively impact our business. Our primarily focus is on:

  • Labour (incl. forced and child labour)
  • Harassment and discrimination
  • Freedom of association (i.e. join trade unions)
  • Right to privacy and data protection

This includes also the identification of vulnerable groups: (i) the study subjects in clinical trials, (ii) employees, (iii) trade unions, (iv) suppliers. We prioritise human rights issues in order to address them properly and are in the process of further refining the risk assessment with a cross-functional team.

All Roche companies and affiliates respect the following basic principles:

Embedded in our business and operations

At a global level, we strive to embed human rights in existing operations by multiple means: assess the risks, increase awareness, foster due diligence, strengthen the legal framework, collaborate in collective actions, and transparent reporting.

This is why, for example, all Roche employees are trained in the basic principles of human rights by way of a global mandatory eLearning course. In 2017, more than 98% of all Roche employees completed this course.

We maintain a system of consistent global standards, which we also apply to our business partners, for example, in areas like R&D, clinical trials, manufacturing and distribution. Furthermore, every Roche site has an HR contact responsible for ensuring compliance with related HR principles (e.g. discrimination, harassment) as outlined in the Roche Group Employment Policy. All of our operations respect the right of employees to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Employees can choose to be represented by unions, works councils or similar organisations, including the Roche Europe Forum, where employees from every Roche company in Europe are represented.

Collaborating with business partners

We see it as our duty to engage in careful due diligence on actual and potential business partners and ask them to do the same with their own business partners in order to create transparency. Due to the high standards that we require of our business partners, we do not consider our operations to be at risk of human rights violations.

Human Right aspects are an integral part of our due diligence. For said purpose, a cross-divisional working group has established a checklist on Due Diligence for External Business Partners, mainly focusing on agents and distributors. It includes guidance on performing a risk assessment, incorporating a human rights assessment and implementation framework.

Human Rights Assessment and Implementation Framework
Human Rights Assessment and Implementation Framework

All Roche affiliates are asked to include human rights aspects in their regular risk assessment and to apply them in line with a risk-based approach.

Focus on supply chain

A cross-functional human rights task force was established in 2017 which elaborated tools and processes to identify and mitigate human rights risks (with focus on modern slavery), especially in our supply chain. By assessing our business-critical suppliers, a scalable human rights risk algorithm and a risk heat map were put in place (taking into consideration the country and industry/commodity risk and subsequently calculating a cumulative score which allows classification by severity of risk).

Our aim is to ensure that we have identified critical non-tier 1 supplier-related high risks and have respective mitigation plans in place. The elaborated methodology provides the necessary transparency among the higher tiers of the supply chain.

In 2017, with the support of our critical tier 1 suppliers, we identified 1000 critical tier 2 suppliers, of which 300 were high-risk suppliers (the number is higher compared to 2016 due to the project). These high-risk critical tier 2 suppliers had mitigation plans in place. We also discovered that risk rises if we include suppliers in tier 3 and higher because several raw materials are agricultural products sourced from countries that for example rank high in the modern slavery index.

Because we strive for long-lasting relationships with our suppliers, we engage in dialogue with them and elaborate mitigation plans for any identified high risks.

Furthermore, we conduct sustainability assurance visits at our business-critical suppliers with the support of external audit firms in order to ensure that our suppliers meet our expectations in terms of human rights and other sustainability principles. In 2017, we conducted more than 156 supplier sustainability assurance visits. There was no evidence of child labour or modern slavery. We had 114 findings in the human rights and labour area (e.g. excessive overtime, improper payment of overtime, insufficient rest days per working week, inadequate payment of social benefits such as pension plans). We verified closure of the findings via follow-up audits. We stopped business with five suppliers because they failed or didn't want to improve the audit findings in spite of the support we offered.

We have also started to systematically include wording in our contracts with our business-critical suppliers requiring them to be transparent about the risks related to their own critical suppliers, and we work with them to mitigate identified high risks.

Learn more about Suppliers and Service Providers

Goals & Performance

Reporting human rights violations

Employees and business partners are requested to speak up and report incidents if they believe in good faith that in connection with a business where Roche is involved someone has done, is doing, or may be about to do something that violates our ethical principles.

Our local, regional and Group Compliance Officers serve as contacts for allegations, which are then reported via the Business Ethics Incident Reporting (BEIR) system to the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO). External business partners can directly contact the CCO. All allegations are taken seriously and are objectively investigated. If the allegation is substantiated, we take appropriate remedial measures.

In 2017, there were 13 substantiated incidents related to human rights, mainly severe HR violations (such as discrimination), which triggered termination: 11 regarding employees, 2 regarding a business partner.

The CCO reports further details to the Corporate Executive Committee and the Corporate Governance Committee of the Board of Directors.