Upholding our commitment to human rights

We continue to make progress in expanding our efforts to respect human rights within our operations and throughout our supply chain. In 2021, we published a holistic Human Rights Commitment Statement that builds on our previous commitments and reflects the increasing importance of integrating human rights across the organization.

New measurement framework

In 2021, we took another key step in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by developing a measurement framework to track our performance across three pillars: due diligence, empowerment and external engagement.

We continued our engagement in five priority areas: third-party labor rights, diversity and inclusion, clinical trials, grievance mechanisms, and anti-bribery and corruption. We also updated our list of 12 salient human rights issues based on human rights assessments conducted since 2017.

Human rights assessment of clinical trials

Clinical trials play a critical role in medicine development, but they also raise significant human rights considerations. In 2021, we completed a human rights assessment of the global policy framework governing our clinical trials. Results showed that we are aligned with external expectations on human rights, including on informed consent, transparency, post-trial access to medicine, financial compensation, and potential conflicts of interest, among other areas. Please see here for a list of relevant policies and here for clinical trial results.

Empowering employees to understand and assess human rights

Through our internal Human Rights Ambassador Network, we worked with our pharmaceutical export business to develop a human rights assessment toolkit. We are piloting two remote human rights assessments in countries with heightened human rights risk.


Employees trained and certified

on our Code of Ethics

Purchasing raw materials from certified sources

Internally, we continued to address risks from raw material inputs into our medicines, and we are rolling out guides to support our procurement team in purchasing ingredients from certified sources. Externally, through the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative’s Human Rights and Labor Subcommittee, which Novartis co-chairs, we continued to investigate human rights risks associated with raw material inputs in pharmaceutical products and to develop approaches for collective action in our supply chains.

Integrating human rights into our third-party risk process

In 2021, we completed the integration of human rights into the four relevant risk areas (labor rights; health, safety and environment; data privacy; and anti-bribery and corruption) in our Third-Party Risk Management process. This included updating our Third-Party Code and self-assessment questionnaires, as well as ongoing training with our third-party labor rights risk experts.

Further, we launched a pilot to support suppliers with higher-risk profiles in implementing our Third-Party Code. We are working with suppliers in Singapore and Malaysia to develop guidance and key performance indicators to help them manage risks linked to migrant workers.

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