Essity 2022 Annual and Sustainability Report: Business Ethics and Human Rights
For the well-being of people and planet
Conducting Essity’s business in a socially responsible way is part of our corporate DNA. We have a zero-tolerance approach to unethical business behavior and violations of human rights in the value chains where we exercise control.
Code of Conduct
Essity’s Code of Conduct describes how employees should act, how the company operates, and our stakeholder’s expectations of Essity and Essity’s commitment to human rights, including children’s rights. The Code is based on international standards, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), the ILO Core Conventions, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the UN Global Compact Principles and related legislation.
All of Essity’s wholly owned subsidiaries are bound by the Code of Conduct. We expect joint-venture companies to implement a Code of Conduct and guidelines equivalent to those stipulated in Essity’s Code of Conduct.
To ensure that all employees comply with the Code of Conduct, it is included as a mandatory training course in all the company’s onboarding programs. To address the risk of corruption, Essity has an anti-corruption program that includes due diligence programs for business partners, training programs for employees and risk analyses. For Essity employees who have frequent contact with external stakeholders, annual anti-corruption training is mandatory.
All our other business partners are expected to follow principles equivalent to those included in the company’s Code of Conduct.
Essity has a Global Supplier Standard to ensure responsible business operations and respect for human rights across the company’s supplier base. This standard contains requirements concerning quality, product safety, the environment and chemicals. It also contains a Code of Conduct for Suppliers that includes Essity’s expectations as regards human rights and employee relations, health and safety and business ethics. Compliance with these principles is a key factor when choosing suppliers and other business partners.
Compliance and monitoring
Systematic activities, such as audits and other monitoring processes, take place to ensure compliance.
For Essity’s own and wholly owned production facilities, compliance with the Code of Conduct is ensured through audits under SA8000 conducted by the Internal Audit unit. The preferred audit format is SMETA, the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange’s (Sedex) social auditing methodology, which is the most widely used format in the world for social and ethical audits. Essity’s own and wholly owned production facilities that have conducted self-assessments in Sedex are available to our customers who are part of Sedex. Customers conduct audits in accordance with SMETA at Essity’s production facilities.
We apply a systematic approach to ensure that our suppliers globally operate in line with our Code of Conduct for Suppliers. Essity requires that the company’s suppliers use Sedex to conduct a self-assessment linked to working conditions, environment, business ethics and health and safety. Audits at the suppliers’ sites, in accordance with OECD guiding principles for Multinational Enterprises and UN Global Compact, are used to verify compliance and to identify and address potential social and ethical issues.
Essity encourages an open and honest culture in which all employees can report suspicions of violations of the Code of Conduct or legislation. Retaliation against individuals who submit reports in good faith will not be accepted. Essity offers its employees a number of internal channels to report violations. Essity’s Code of Conduct includes a section on how the company’s whistleblower system works. All employees have access to the whistleblower system, Essity’s reporting hotline, which is managed by an external party. Our reporting hotline is available 24/7 by phone or online in more than 25 languages. Where permitted by law, breaches can be reported anonymously. Essity’s Compliance & Ethics department receives all submitted reports from the whistleblower system and is responsible for ensuring that necessary action is taken. Reports are presented regularly to Essity’s Compliance Council and to the Board of Directors. Read more about this on Essity.com.
Partnering for improved global health and well-being
Greater impact can be achieved by collaborating with organizations that share our ambition to improve global hygiene, health and equality. We engage in initiatives where we can best contribute and these must be politically and religiously independent, as set out in Essity’s Community Relations Instruction. In 2022, Essity invested approximately SEK 37M in more than 400 projects. For example, during the year we had a close and action-oriented collaboration with UNHCR to support people in Ukraine.
We work with partners to gather and share knowledge and insights. Through our different perspectives, expertise and resources, the aim is to identify solutions to global societal challenges and to drive global change, for example by raising hygiene and health standards, thereby improving well-being for millions worldwide. With important partners such as the United Nations Foundation, we focus on sharing knowledge and raising awareness on what is needed to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Our work in raising awareness of stigmas and breaking taboos related to hygiene and health are examples of how Essity can play an important role in society and participate in the global public debate around issues related to hygiene, health, and well-being.
For many years, Essity has been a strategic partner in the “Global Handwashing Partnership”. We also support the “Hand hygiene for all” initiative together with the WHO and UNICEF in Mexico, the aim of which is to guarantee access to products and services for hand hygiene in countries and areas where knowledge of and access to good hygiene and handwashing solutions are limited. Through our partnership with UNICEF in Mexico, we are highlighting the rights of children and young people in relation to health, education and gender equality, with a focus on hand hygiene and menstruation.
As a means of contributing to the global dialogue on improving hygiene and health, driving societal progress and enabling solutions, we have – over the past 15 years – regularly published “The Hygiene and Health Report” in cooperation with the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (SHF). The report contains new insights and relevant action and has been the base for engaging with stakeholders to drive urgently needed changes.
Read more about Essity’s strategic priorities, earnings and leading sustainability work in the Annual and Sustainability Report 2022, which can be downloaded at www.essity.com.
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