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.

Since more than 120 years, in our own operations, in our value chain and our activities related to our business, Roche has in many ways fostered the human rights globally. This valuable contribution to society is acknowledged by many stakeholders.

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 implemented a risk management program designed to systematically identify, assess, mitigate and adequately manage the risk of human rights violations. This risk management program does not only apply to our operations, but likewise to our value chain and activities related to our business. We discuss and assess identified risks within the Corporate Sustainability Committee. At the time being, the four identified top risks - including vulnerable groups such as patients, employees, suppliers and business partners - are:

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 2018, more than 99% 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.

Supply chain

We expect from our suppliers that they protect human rights, as well, and that they work with their own suppliers to protect the human rights.

In 2018, we implemented an updated scalable risk algorithm to identify suppliers with a high potential for human rights violations. We also enhanced our existing supplier labour and human rights risk assessment program. We worked with the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI) to revise the PSCI audit program and create a more robust process for the identification of human rights violations.

Our human rights algorithm to assess human rights violation risks throughout the supply chain focuses on four risk factors: Country, Industry, Proximity (e.g. work on Roche premises) and known violations.

In 2018, we conducted 126 supplier sustainability assurance visits with the support of 3rd party auditors. We had 100 human rights and labour findings but none of them were critical. We found no evidence of child labour or modern slavery. The major findings included excessive overtime, improper pay of overtime, insufficient rest days per work week, and inadequate payment of social benefits. Corrective action plans were implemented with all suppliers. We verified closure via follow-up audits and the majority of suppliers made the necessary improvements quickly. We stopped business with 2 suppliers who failed to improve despite our support.

We continued to assess and mitigate the risk of human rights violations in our supply chain by collaborating with our critical suppliers. We used our enhanced human rights violation risk process to identify risks among our critical suppliers’ own critical suppliers (“critical tier 2 suppliers”). We did not receive any reports about critical findings among tier 2 suppliers.

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 2018, there were 18 substantiated incidents related to human rights. 14 related to internal Discrimination or Harassment, 1 related to internal Data Privacy and 3 to Business Partners. All of those cases triggered a termination (15 Roche employees, 3 Business Partners).

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