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Aspect 5: Fighting corruption

Corruption and unfair business practices violate national and international law. We reject every form of corruption, which is why prevention and corruption avoidance measures constitute a focus of our compliance activities.

Ethical business practices and compliance

We feel it is highly important that all staff and executive bodies in our Group act with integrity and comply with our values, rules of conduct, and applicable laws and statutory requirements at all times. The goal of our compliance activities is to prevent violations and improper business behavior and to integrate compliance into our business processes early on and enduringly. Our customers need to be able to trust that our actions meet the highest standards for compliance and integrity around the world. This is essential if we are to be seen as a reliable partner.

We have expressed our commitment to complying with ethical principles and both legal and statutory requirements. We have anchored this pledge in our Guiding Principles and our Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is valid throughout the Group and has been introduced in all of our national companies.

Group Compliance, our central compliance management organization, also plays a key role in establishing corporate governance structures and a corporate culture that focus on respect and integrity. It promotes a compliance culture and establishes a set of values centering around the issue of compliance at our Group, and encourages managers and employees to internalize these values. Our understanding of compliance therefore far exceeds simply conducting business legally, i.e., in line with laws and internal regulations, and aims to ensure everyone in our Group behaves with integrity.

We have introduced a comprehensive compliance management system to establish integrity and compliance with the law as pillars of conduct across the entire Group. The compliance management system serves to mitigate exposure to legal and financial risks, minimize the risk of reputational damage being sustained by the Company, its employees or executive bodies, prevent violations of applicable law and internal policies and regulations, and deter conduct not in compliance with our values. The aim of compliance management is to ensure that all our activities comply both with legal and statutory requirements and with our own internal policies and regulations. Responsibility for the compliance management system lies with the Board of Management department for Human Resources and Legal Affairs. In addition, one person at management or board of management level in each Group company is in charge of compliance. Our Chief Compliance Officer is responsible for the Group-wide design, advancement, and implementation of the compliance management system. Compliance officers implement the compliance management system and our compliance goals locally at the level of our operating segments and national companies.

We take many different actions and measures to prevent and fight corruption. Our compliance management system is based on the Compliance Risk Assessments (CRAs), which we use to identify and assess compliance risks and introduce suitable preventative measures. To this end, we have introduced a Group-wide process to be carried out annually. The companies that will take part in the CRAs are selected according to the level of maturity of their compliance management system (maturity-based model). In the reporting year, the CRAs included 112 entities (92 companies and 20 central units) and covered 98.1 % of the workforce (according to the headcount figures for the fully consolidated companies and central units). The individual Group companies are responsible for conducting the CRA, with support and advice given from the central compliance organization. We have our compliance management system reviewed, with particular attention paid to anti-corruption measures. In 2020, initially nine German companies were examined. A further 13 international companies were then assessed in 2021. A total of 22 companies were thus successfully reviewed in the two-year period 2020/2021. Like in 2020, the review during the reporting year focused on business processes that are subject to an increased risk of corruption, such as procurement, sales, events, donations, sponsoring, M&A, and HR.

We regularly provide risk-oriented and target group-specific compliance and anti-corruption training. We have set up the AskMe advice portal to address all kinds of issues relating to compliance. The portal contains reliable information for employees on laws, internal policies, and rules of conduct relevant to their daily activities.

Despite all precautions, we are not always able to prevent breaches of law or violations of regulations at the Company. The TellMe whistleblower portal is available to employees and external parties for reporting breaches or suspected breaches of the law or of internal policies and regulations. In 2021, 87 compliance-related tip-offs were submitted via the TellMe portal (prior year: 113 tip-offs). Over the course of the year, 47 of these were confirmed to be cases of misconduct and dealt with accordingly. Within the scope of the legal framework available to us, we systematically pursue all tip-offs, including those that reach us via other channels, and implement commensurate sanctions in compliance with the relevant statutory provisions. We have introduced a Group-wide reporting process to control and monitor these activities.

With our Supplier Code of Conduct as an integral component of our General Terms and Conditions for Purchasing, we obligate our suppliers to, among other elements, refrain from any kind of corruption or conduct that could be interpreted as such. We select our business partners based on compliance criteria and conduct risk-oriented compliance business assessments. We have been offering regular e-learning training courses on compliance to our suppliers since 2014.