Upholding our commitment to human rights

In 2020, our CEO was the first from a pharmaceutical company to sign the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s CEO Guide to Human Rights, calling on businesses to contribute to the realization of universal human rights. He was also one of more than 1 000 CEOs to endorse the Statement from Business Leaders for Renewed Global Cooperation, reaffirming support for the United Nations (UN) and renewed global cooperation, with firm commitments to uphold human rights.

We continued to conduct due diligence to embed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights throughout our operations. Although the pandemic limited our ability to perform due diligence on the ground, we conducted desk-based research in preparation for future field-based human rights assessments in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico and Russia, and we completed virtual labor rights and HSE audits in India, Brazil and Mexico. We have initiated a process of human rights risk mapping and assessments regarding raw material inputs into our products, and clinical trial policies and processes, which we will report on once findings are available.

In April, based on the World Health Organization’s technical information on COVID-19, we provided guidance to our suppliers to help ensure they met our expectations for the treatment of workers. Together with Human Rights, HSE, TPRM and other functions, the Labor Rights team in India also established a Novartis supplier extension program to share COVID-19-related good practices with suppliers virtually.

Our Novartis Third Party Code includes a specific requirement for suppliers to respect human rights and align to our requirements for minimum wages, paid overtime, maximum working hours, time off and breaks, and definitions of child labor and young workers, to comply with international standards. The code reinforces our commitment to diversity and inclusion in our supply chain by prohibiting supplier discrimination based on national or ethnic minority status, and gender identity or expression. In addition, we rolled out training for relevant internal functions to raise their awareness and provide them with due diligence guidance to help prevent modern slavery. To further build internal capacity, we plan to launch pilots in 2021 to enable our supply chain managers to better identify and manage human rights concerns among higher-risk third parties.

We publish a statement explaining how we address modern slavery risks or impacts each year on our website.

In 2020, to drive collective action at scale beyond our own company’s operations, we spearheaded projects through the PSCI’s Human Rights and Labor Subcommittee, which we co-chair. For example, in India, we mobilized a coalition of PSCI members to support the state of Telangana’s initiative to restore the Musi River in Hyderabad by raising supplier awareness and capability to avoid discharging untreated wastewater effluents. In Brazil, we coordinated a PSCI working group to investigate human and labor rights practices among carnauba wax suppliers and encourage them to join sector-wide initiatives for addressing these issues, in particular the risk of forced labor. Further, we mobilized a group of pharmaceutical companies to look into the human rights risks associated with raw material inputs in pharmaceutical products. Novartis also led the development and delivery of human rights and modern slavery trainings for PSCI members, and for the annual pharmaceutical supplier conferences in China and India.

We continued to promote human rights through more inclusive policies at Novartis. Our Human Rights, Diversity & Inclusion, and People & Organization (P&O) teams partnered to support human rights leadership opportunities, including the promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) associates’ rights and the development of the company’s first global policy and strategy for ensuring respect for the right to equal opportunities of disabled associates.

Novartis human rights strategy

Ongoing due diligence (Icon)

Ongoing due diligence

Augmenting existing due diligence processes by embedding human rights

Human rights assessments (Icon)

Human rights assessments

Investigating markets, products, and services for potential human rights risks and impacts

Capacity building (Icon)

Capacity building

Building capacity in Novartis about human rights and due diligence processes

Strategic rights promotion (Icon)

Strategic rights promotion

Supporting protection of human rights in areas that align with our business

Stakeholder engagement (Icon)

Stakeholder engagement

Reporting and engaging with key internal functions and external stakeholders