Human Rights – SANOFI Approach

By Sanofi, Tatiana Campos-Rocha (Sanofi)
10:05 PM, July 22, 2014

In line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Sanofi has adopted an ambitious and holistic approach to ensure that human rights are soundly integrated throughout all the Group’s operations. For Sanofi, it is essential to ensure that respect for human rights is integrated into our business activities everywhere we operate, including in countries considered to be at risk for matters concerning human rights.

We have to address human rights issues that are common to all types of businesses, such as labor conditions, employee safety, and the abolition of  forced labor and child labor. At the same time, we must also answer to issues that are specific to our business sector, such as improving access to healthcare
and respecting rules of ethics during clinical trials.

Human rights principles are addressed in our main internal reference documents, such as our Code of Ethics, our Supplier Code of Conduct, and our Social Charter. These are to be considered as the minimum applicable standards should local regulations be less stringent in any of the Group’s countries of operation.
However, human rights in business is a complex topic by nature and it cannot be addressed only through reference documents and a standardized methodology. It requires a strong Group ambition and a holistic vision in order to identify and implement all necessary tools aimed at raising the awareness of employees so that they progress step by step.

Some key components of this holistic approach are as follows.

1. Adopting a human rights statement

The cornerstone of our approach is to prepare and adopt a human rights statement that sets the tone of our commitment (see right page).

2. Identifying human rights impacts in our value chain

Respect for human rights forms the foundation upon which our CSR policy is built. By complying with international human rights standards and principles, Sanofi makes a formal commitment to incorporate human rights principles in the Group’s operating activities. 

Using a collaborative and sectorial approach targeted at human rights in the pharmaceutical industry and in the workplace, in 2013 the Group designed the guide “Human Rights in Our Activities” in order to provide a practical tool that reflects the realities of our day-to-day business activities.

 Because Sanofi’s core business is the development and commercialization of medicines and vaccines, we have designed  this guide in order to follow the four steps in the lifecycle of a drug, with the key human rights principles expected from the stakeholders and illustrations of best practices given along the way. This document also includes a section dedicated to human rights at work across various functions – it outlines the best practices a responsible employer should put in place all along the value chain.

Sanofi has designed the Human Rights Guide with four aims:

  • Inform and familiarize all Sanofi employees with the key human rights principles.
  • Identify potential impacts of Sanofi activities on human rights as well as associated expectations from stakeholders to reduce negative impacts and maximize positive ones.
  • Describe a selection of Sanofi good practices at every step of a drug’s lifecycle and in the workplace.
  • Act as a reference point for all Sanofi managers making decisions about potential issues linked to human rights in their daily activities.

In order to take into account the extent and nature of human rights issues faced by Sanofi, this document was built using a cross-functional and participative approach that included representatives from more than 12 Sanofi Directions.

In addition, this guide was offered to Sanofi employees in December 2013 within the framework of Human Rights International Day. It is supplemented by tools (slide kit, website pages, etc.) to help Sanofi managers better understand their roles and responsibilities in applying the guide, and it will serve as an educational tool for its deployment in the different Group organizations, regions, and countries.

Photo: sanofi

“As a multinational healthcare company that is keenly aware of our social responsibility, Sanofi is committed to integrating respect for human rights into all our business operations and public positions. We are convinced that the principles of human rights apply to people, to nations, and, by extension, to businesses. While states and governments have a duty to guarantee human rights through adequate laws and policies, we believe that businesses also have a role to play. It begins with them identifying their own impact on 


human rights compliance and taking measures to prevent human rights violations.

For several years now, Sanofi has expressed and reiterated our commitment to the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact and other international standards in the field of human rights. In addition, we have made it one of the cornerstones of our corporate social responsibility (CRS) approach, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We are committed to promoting respect for human rights principles in all areas of our business – from improving access to healthcare and upholding ethical standards to respecting fundamental employee rights and taking steps to preserve our planet.

Stakeholders today put increasing pressure on businesses to provide transparent information about their human rights practices, which also have the potential to significantly impact a company’s business and reputation as well as to enhance trust between customers and corporations. We believe that responding to stakeholders’ expectations and addressing these issues represents an opportunity to improve both our human rights performance and our bottom line.

One of the key success factors in promoting respect for human rights in business is ensuring that all stakeholders are fully aware of their individual and collective rights and are informed about their respective obligations toward one another.”
Gilles Lhernould, Senior Vice-President CSR, Sanofi

A FOCUS ON Human rights in research and development

Stakeholder expectations: Ensure that all research participants, including vulnerable persons, have given individual and informed consent and that their rights to information on benefits and risks prior to consent are respected and protected.

 A best practice: Sanofi Brazil developed a Free and Informed Consent form in comic-book format to improve understanding of clinical-trial procedures among participants. 

Key human rights: Right to health; right to access to information; right to life, liberty, and security; right to not be subjected to medical or scientific experimentation without one’s free consent; right to privacy.

Photo: Sanofi
Photo: Sanofi

3. Evaluating and mitigating risks linked to human rights

Sanofi adopts a proactive strategy to manage risks related to our business. To implement this strategy and to address all risks that we may be exposed to in connection with our activities, we rely on a dedicated risk-management organization, including a Risk Committee, which is chaired by the Senior Vice-President of CSR; a Risk Coordination Direction, which is part of the CSR Direction; and Risk Coordinators, who are responsible for risk assessments within their areas of responsibility.

In 2013, under the coordination of the Group Risk Management Direction, a working group was established in order to provide a risk profile on Social and Human Rights within Sanofi and at the level of its suppliers; to propose actions plans when relevant; and to monitor critical risks. The recommendations made by the working group will be evaluated in 2014 by the Group Risk Committee for further implementation of relevant actions.

4. Performing due diligence assessments of operations and evaluations of suppliers

As a supplement to the work done in line with the guide “Human Rights in Our Activities,” we encourage and enable the Group’s different functions to evaluate the impact of their own activities, with a particular focus on identifying any potential human rights concerns.

Self-assessment at the Group level: Evaluation of Sanofi’s practices at the corporate level is based on the Business and Human Rights Matrix of the Business Leaders Initiative for Human Rights, which allows the Group to establish an inventory of practices and identify any areas for improvement.

Local self-assessment: The CSR Excellence Direction also performed a self-assessment of practices in a pilot country, India, selected on the basis of potential risks of human rights concerns according to the Maplecroft methodology. This evaluation was performed using the Human Rights Assessment Tool for Pharmaceutical Companies created by the Danish Institute for Human Rights. The results of this assessment were encouraging and highlighted India as an example for other countries to follow.

We also designed and deployed a specific risk-methodology to identify and assess suppliers that should receive priority attention in terms of evaluation and monitoring for CSR risks, and Human Rights risks in particular. A combination of 34 procurement categories and 36 countries have been targeted as priorities in our suppliers’ evaluation campaign: A total of 335 suppliers have been evaluated since the start of our campaigns in 2011.

5. Training senior executives and operational managers

Since 2010, a total of 84 managers and senior executives representing more than 25 functions have received one full day of training about human rights in business. In-house human rights training sessions are organized with the support of outside experts. These experts help prepare the training program, which includes “case study” workshops relating to the human rights issues that Sanofi addresses. The training sessions also provide an opportunity to regularly discuss and share best practices. The human rights program is part of the training catalog available on the dedicated training platform accessible to all Sanofi employees in France.

5. Training senior executives and operational managers

Since 2010, a total of 84 managers and senior executives representing more than 25 functions have received one full day of training about human rights in business. In-house human rights training sessions are organized with the support of outside experts. These experts help prepare the training program, which includes “case study” workshops relating to the human rights issues that Sanofi addresses. The training sessions also provide an opportunity to regularly discuss and share best practices. The human rights program is part of the training catalog available on the dedicated training platform accessible to all Sanofi employees in France.

6. Our focus on children’s rights

Our commitment to respect children’s rights and to integrate this dimension into our operations is part of our human rights approach and complies with the Children’s Rights and Business Principles developed by UNICEF in March 2012 alongside the UN Global Compact and Save the Children project. It represents the first time comprehensive guidance has been offered to companies on how to integrate children’s rights into their policies and business processes.

As a healthcare company, we have a particular duty to both ensure that our products and services are safe for children and to support children’s rights through them. Today, Sanofi is the only pharmaceutical company to offer a vast portfolio of pediatric products that covers 41 percent of the molecules and vaccines on the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List for Children.

In Africa, since the launch of the pediatric initiative, we have made 36 pediatric products available on the market that cover six major therapeutic areas; trained or given access to medical information for better treatment to more than 50,000 healthcare professionals; raised the general public’s awareness about children’s healthcare; and improved the health education of 15,000 children through different events (e.g., diabetes camps, fun centers in hospitals, etc.).

Sanofi participates in numerous additional projects in close cooperation with local governments and institutions in order to protect and fulfill children’s rights.

Sanofi pediatric healthcare initiative

A Sanofi pediatric healthcare initiative has been created to acknowledge our company-wide commitment to children’s health and to unify our pediatric resources across all division and brands to better answer children’s health needs. This initiative, called “Healthy Children, Happy Children,” focuses on pediatric care in emerging markets (e.g., Africa, Latin America). We are already the leading pharmaceutical company in these markets, the one with the longest, most dependable presence in providing medications and services as well as in developing productive relationships. Our goal, now more than ever, is to provide every child the opportunity to lead a healthier and happier life.

Photo: Sanofi
Photo: Sanofi

6.1 Fighting childhood cancer

To fight childhood cancer and improve survival rates in low- and middle-income countries, in 2006 the Sanofi Espoir Foundation created My Child Matters as a sustainable cooperation with its partners, the Union for International Cancer Control, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and other international childhood cancer organizations.

The program focuses on:

  • decentralization to bring childhood cancer care closer to patients’ homes;
  • early diagnosis through family awareness and caregiver training for timely detection of signs and symptoms of cancer;
  • palliative care to improve quality of life by reducing suffering for the large number of children with cancers too advanced to cure;
  • population-based childhood cancer registries to understand regional disease burdens and guide future health policies. Since 2006, 45 projects have received support in 33 countries thanks to the Sanofi Espoir Foundation’s investment of € 7.2 million to date. A total of 14 projects were ongoing in 22 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in 2013, and more than 40,000 children were supported

6.2 Raising awareness about Diabetes in School

1. In Turkish schools, Sanofi organized an ambitious project to raise awareness among children and teachers about type 1 diabetes, childhood obesity, and healthy eating habits. The aim is to go beyond building awareness and actually improve diabetes management in collaboration with teachers.

This program is part of the National Diabetes Program led by the Turkish Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes Association. In 2013, as an outcome of the Diabetes in School program, the Ministry of Education published a revised “Circular on Diabetic Children” to extend its scope to school administrators, teachers, parents, and school bus drivers so that they work in close cooperation in order to protect the health of diabetic pupils. Since 2010, the program has reached more than 7.5 million children and 580,000 teachers.

2. The Kids and Diabetes in Schools (KiDS) program was launched in India by our CEO, Christopher A. Viehbacher, and Sir Michael Hirst, President of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), during a 2013 visit to Mumbai. This joint public health initiative is based on a partnership between Sanofi, IDF, and the Public Health Foundation of India. According to an International Diabetes Federation study, diabetes is a major public health challenge in India, which is ranked number two globally in terms of the spread and impact of diabetes. An estimated one out of five children with type 1 diabetes is an Indian.

For children with diabetes type 1, KiDS aims to foster a safe and supportive school environment to manage their diabetes and fight discrimination. It also teaches children about healthy eating habits and the importance of exercise to curb the increasing burden of type 2 diabetes.

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Tatiana Campos-Rocha, Laurent Lhopitallier
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About the Authors

Sanofi's sustainability approach places the patient at the heart of the Group’s business conduct. This approach is based on four key areas: Patient, People, Ethics and Planet.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is at the heart of Sanofi's development strategy because its long-term sustainability depends on it. As a patient-centred global healthcare leader, it therefore makes certain that it always acts ethically and responsibly in support of economic and social development while preserving the environment. 

Campos-Rocha, Tatiana

 works for Sanofi

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect CSR Manager's editorial policy.
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