What drives you? We all have goals and values that inform our actions – this holds true for people and companies alike. At Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, the force that drives us is our purpose: We are curious minds dedicated to human progress.
For us, acting responsibly means respecting the interests of our employees, customers, investors, and society. That is why we support the United Nations Global Compact and its principles, which cover human rights, labor standards, environmental protection, and anti-corruption. For example, in 2019 we adopted the Group-wide "Social and Labor Standards Policy”, which addresses the guidelines of the International Labour Organization (ILO), emphasizes fair and respectful treatment of one other and is an effective tool against discrimination in the workplace.
In 2019, we also signed the “Women's Empowerment Principles”, an initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact to support women.
Diversity makes us stronger, which is why we have decided to promote it. For example, we launched training courses designed to help participants identify their own unconscious biases. We want to give all brilliant ideas equal consideration, regardless of whether they are from colleagues in Darmstadt or Shanghai.
Collaboration is the foundation for a good future. We want our business activities to create shared value that is both measurable and makes a recognizable contribution to society. Therefore, as a company we support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which include, for example, “Good Health and Well-being” and “Quality Education”.
I firmly believe that this is a day and age in which we can find answers to many societal challenges, not least due to the rapid development of data processing, among other things. At the same time, new research approaches also raise new questions – including ethical issues. For example, to find responsible ways to deal with difficult topics, we have been relying on the Bioethics Advisory Panel of our company for a decade now.
In 2019, this international expert committee focused particularly on digital ethics. If we develop new business models based on artificial intelligence and Big Data, we need clear guidelines, for example in handling patient data. As a result of these discussions, we have established a Digital Ethics Board to address ethical issues related to data use and algorithms.
This example also shows that we want to maximize the benefits of our work – and minimize the risks. The same applies with regard to environmental impact. In the next two years, for example, we will reduce by one-fifth the amount of polystyrene packaging used for products from our Life Science business sector and increase the proportion of recyclable materials. We are currently working intensively to embed the various aspects of sustainability in the strategies of our business sectors. This includes a new climate target that we will set in 2020.
Last but not least, we want to make a positive contribution, both above and beyond our daily business. As a science and technology company, we are ideally positioned to do so. In 2019, we presented the first edition of our Future Insight Prize for visionary research. Two American scientists received a total of one million euros for their work in the fight against infectious diseases. The recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus has once again underscored the importance of pandemic prevention.
Together with the World Health Organization, we are also fighting the insidious worm disease schistosomiasis, which claims around 200,000 lives every year. We have already donated a total of more than one billion praziquantel tablets for the treatment of this disease. In addition, we are working on a new pediatric formulation of the active ingredient for very young children and seeking new ways to diagnose and treat the disease. Our long-term goal is to eliminate schistosomiasis. And we are pressing ahead with malaria prevention and the war against counterfeit medicines. Apart from our efforts to help patients, we are also advocating for the people taking care of them. As part of our worldwide “Embracing Carers” initiative, we want to raise awareness for the often overlooked needs of people helping family members requiring nursing care.
For me personally, it is highly motivating to be part of a team that makes all this and much more possible. I hope you find this report both inspiring and informative.
Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO