Corporate Governance and Responsible Business Practices
Respect and Promotion of Human Rights
Our business model, particularly the construction and refurbishment of housing in Germany, Austria and Sweden, means that we operate in a highly regulated legal environment. This means that the company has to adhere to a number of binding requirements and place particular emphasis on respect for human rights as an issue that is protected under constitutional law. Respect for human rights is extremely important for Vonovia, regardless of the legal framework. 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. We are aware that compliance with labor and social standards on construction sites and in our supply chain can be a challenge from a risk and human rights perspective.
Because violations of labor law can occur even in highly regulated markets, the Management Board published a Human Rights Policy in 2020. This will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis in the future in order to address any changes in exposure to human rights risk at Vonovia. This declaration clarifies our commitment to a pluralistic democratic society, our zero tolerance approach to human rights violations and our desire to respect human rights in all aspects of our business. We are committed to complying with the core labor standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the principles of the UN Global Compact, which we joined in summer 2020 and which strictly forbids forced and child labor. Furthermore, all Vonovia employees are obliged to act in accordance with our mission statement, our business philosophy and our Code of Conduct.
We are in a position to mitigate some of the risks mentioned above because the company performs around one-third of its trade/construction activities in Germany itself via its own technical service. This makes us less dependent on services from other construction companies and reduces our exposure to the risk of non-compliance with labor law on the part of external service providers.
of Respect for Human Rights published
Our contractual partners have to sign our Business Partner Code whenever a contract is concluded, in which they undertake to meet certain sustainability criteria. A separate Code is used in Sweden. These criteria include clear expectations regarding integrity, legal compliance and ethical conduct. They stipulate, among other things, a zero tolerance approach to illicit employment and child labor, that the legal minimum wage must be paid and that all relevant 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 review and update the Business Partner Code on a regular basis.
By cooperating as partners over the long term, we build close and trusting relationships with our contractual partners that are largely managed by the procurement department and supported by the Vonovia partner portal (see section Sustainable Relationships With Business Partners). Any violations are sanctioned by blocking new orders and/or terminating the relationship if steps to clarify the breaches and avoid them in the future are not effective. We bring work to a halt immediately if there any violations of the rules on forced labor or child labor. Business relationships are ended if a solution cannot be found.
The Vonovia Business Partner Code
- Provides the economic, legal and ethical basis for a business relationship in the spirit of partnership
- Also applies to subcontractors of our direct contractual partners
- Sets out clear expectations regarding integrity, legal compliance and ethical conduct
- Has to be signed to indicate binding acceptance and put into practice in all business practices
- Is monitored by direct contacts to ensure compliance
- Stipulates that illicit employment must be ruled out, that the legal minimum wage must be paid and that valid German regulations on occupational safety and human rights, and applicable environmental laws, must be observed
- Is supplemented by the Vonovia Declaration of Respect for Human Rights
We are not currently aware of any infringements by our suppliers. Any suspicions can be reported to us via our whistleblowing system at any time.
We plan to include human rights considerations in the supplier approval process. We are also planning a targeted sustainability survey and evaluation to detect and manage any risks. In 2021, we will be very busy preparing for the German Due Diligence Act and expanding our sustainable supplier management system. Our main aim is to include ESG aspects in the approval and evaluation criteria for suppliers, establish a system of performance indicators including reporting structures, and to establish a set of management tools that will support us as we develop our supplier relationships.