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Human rights

Fair, legally compliant and respectful conduct towards employees, business partners and the public are the cornerstone of corporate responsibility, which in the end creates the basis of trust for the sustainable business success of GEA.

As early as 2007, the Executive Board and the European Works Council of GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft as well as the European and the International Metalworkers’ Federations developed and adopted the basic principles of social responsibility that apply to all group employees worldwide. In fiscal year 2019, this code was revamped and significantly expanded, whereupon it was signed by the Executive Board of GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft, the Group Works Council as well as the European Works Council on March 15, 2019.  

In its “Code of Corporate Responsibility,“ GEA fully recognizes the “Guidance on Social Responsibility“ (ISO 26000). GEA has uncompromisingly committed to respecting human rights, engaging in fair operating and business practices, in particular anti-corruption, and to acting in an environmentally-friendly and sustainable way. Furthermore, GEA is committed to fair world trade, supports the principles of the UN Global Compact while referring to the ILO core labor standards as well as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. 

GEA‘s Code of Conduct outlines the values, principles and procedures underlying and guiding GEA’s corporate behavior.  This Code of Conduct reflects the company’s objective to ensure corporate-wide compliance with standards while creating a work environment that rewards integrity, respect as well as fair and responsible conduct. It applies to all GEA employees and bodies worldwide. 

As a successful international engineering group with more than 18,000 employees and operations in over 50 different countries, GEA has committed to international fair trade as a key prerequisite to global economic growth.

Human Rights in the supply chain

GEA expressly requires its business partners to generally apply the values and rules set out in the Code of Corporate Responsibility. For ensuring compliance with these values and the rules of corporate social responsibility along the entire value chain, GEA has adopted its own Code of Conduct for Suppliers and Subcontractors.

GEA practices a zero-tolerance policy with regard to unethical behavior in business, in particular when it comes to bribery, corruption, money laundering or child and forced labor. The supplier registration process requires that suppliers undertake to abide by GEA’s dedicated Code of Conduct for Suppliers and Subcontractors, which was released and implemented in 2018. GEA’s Code of Conduct defines the basic principles and requirements applicable to all suppliers of goods and services, their subcontractors as well as the group entities of suppliers and subcontractors as regards their responsibility towards society, the environment and the individuals involved in the production of goods and the rendering of services. These obligations embrace the recognition of the ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility, compliance with international standards, respect for human rights – including the prohibition of child and forced labor as well as discrimination – fair wages and working hours, freedom of association as well as health and safety at work.

Key suppliers are visited on an annual basis and also regularly checked for adverse social impacts. In the year under review, the company conducted 426 supplier screenings (previous year: 492). GEA performs these evaluations by visiting sub-suppliers, conducting audits or requesting the voluntary disclosure of information; these activities have been undertaken by the country organizations and, until recently, the Business Areas – going forward: Divisions – alike. 

Although GEA is usually seeking to ensure full compliance with the Code of Conduct for Suppliers and Subcontractors, the human rights situation in some countries calls for specific attention. Based on a multi-index approach, GEA currently rates 21 countries as critical. For this purpose, the company combines the assessments of four well -known indices: 

  • "Freedom in the World," issued by Freedom House, an American non-governmental organization
  • "Index of Economic Freedom," published by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal
  • "Press Freedom Index," published by Reporters Without Borders
  • "Democracy Index," released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a private company based in Great Britain

In its assessment, GEA has also taken into account the OECD membership of the countries with the lowest score in at least one of the four indices. In terms of value, GEA sources approximately five percent of its total purchasing volume from human rights priority countries. 

Suppliers and subcontractors accounting for 97 percent of this critical volume have accepted the Code of Conduct. GEA puts a lot of effort into ensuring that all critical countries are covered by the Code. This is to be followed by regular audits with a special focus on compliance with human rights in these countries. 

National Business and Human Rights Action Plan

To further improve its record when it comes to meeting the requirements under the National Business and Human Rights Action Plan (NAP Business and Human Rights), and for the purpose of optimizing its concepts and due diligence processes, GEA set up a special human rights project that was conducted with the support of external consultants in the year under review. The respective results will be implemented in the 2020 fiscal year. 

Learn more about the certified reporting system (“Business Keeper Monitoring System,“ BKMS) >>

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