Annual Report 2020

Respect for Human Rights

With its business model, Vonovia operates within a stringently regulated and controlled legal framework on the German, Austrian and Swedish markets. These legal frameworks mean that the company has to adhere to manifold binding requirements and place particular emphasis on respect for human rights as an aspect that is protected under constitutional law.

Respect for human rights is an extremely important issue for Vonovia – also independently of the legal framework – and it goes without saying that we not only respect human rights, but also actively promote them, e.g., through our measures to ensure equal opportunities or promote occupational health and safety. Since, even in highly regulated markets, breaches of labor law requirements can still occur – for example on construction sites – the Management Board published a Declaration of Respect for Human Rights in 2020 (see In this statement we clarify Vonovia’s conviction for a pluralistic democratic society and zero tolerance of human rights violations and our commitment to respect human Rights in all aspects of our business. We adhere to the ILO core labor standards and the principles of the UN Global Compact, which we signed up to in the summer of 2020.

Vonovia develops and builds homes itself, in particular via the subsidiaries of its BUWOG brand. Compliance with labor and social standards on construction sites is a challenge from a risk/human rights perspective. This challenge is, however, mitigated by the fact that the company performs around one-third of its trade/construction activities in Germany itself via its own technical service. This lessens dependency on external construction companies and therefore this risk, as Vonovia is in a position to exclude service providers and suppliers that do not comply with labor law requirements.

What is more, all contractual partners have to sign our Business Partner Code (see corporate-governance/compliance-and-policies/attitude/) whenever a contract is concluded, in which they undertake to comply with certain sustainability criteria (Sweden has its own code). These criteria include clear expectations regarding integrity, legal compliance and ethical conduct, and stipulate, among other things, that illicit employment must be ruled out, that the legal minimum wage must be paid and that valid regulations on occupational safety and human rights must be observed.

These obligations also apply to third parties – i.e., subcontractors of our contractual partners. We also use long-term cooperation in the spirit of partnership to build a close relationship of trust with our contractual partners. This is largely the responsibility of the procurement department and allows any misconduct to be addressed. The procurement department reports to the CFO division of the Management Board with the intention of ensuring a high degree of neutrality and compliance both internally and externally. The Vonovia partner portal for service providers and suppliers, which was launched by the procurement department at the end of 2019, serves as another key component of system-supported risk and supplier management. When selecting service providers and suppliers, the procurement department uses the Vonovia partner portal to check that the provider in question has acknowledged its duty to respect human rights as set out in the Business Partner Code. In the event of any irregularities or scenarios in which these obligations are ignored, the cases are documented accordingly and sanctions are normally imposed. These processes use tools such as the blacklist and the SAP-supported storage of contract award and payment blocks.

In the future, the Management Board will review the Declaration of Respect for Human Rights adopted in 2020 at regular intervals and develop it accordingly so as to address changes in those areas of Vonovia that are relevant to human rights.