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Accepting responsibility has been shaping the Merck culture for generations
Markets and morals are not contradictions, but rather two sides of one coin. Truly “good businesses” generate economic profits while simultaneously respecting people, the environment and markets, to the long-term benefit of the individual and society. This realization is behind the term “corporate responsibility” (CR). Just how important this lived awareness is in a globalized economy becomes evident in times of economic crisis, at the latest.
An increasing number of companies are therefore taking the initiative and declaring their responsibility to their employees and customers, to the environment, and to the future of their own business. Minimum standards are outlined in the “Global Compact,” a United Nations initiative that champions ten fundamental social and ecological principles. More than 6,000 companies have since joined the initiative. They document their sustainable business practices in a wide variety of areas, from corporate and employee management to the protection of natural resources. This also includes accepting responsibility for the entire value chain.
UN guidelines ensure comparability
Merck has published a Corporate Responsibility report every two years since 2003. “The company thus complies with the guidelines for sustainability reporting of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI),” explains Maria Schaad, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Merck. That provides transparency and comparability—in the most recent edition from 2009 over a total of 72 pages. Merck also joined the UN Global Compact in 2005.
The idea of sustainable business practices is nothing new for the international pharmaceutical and chemical company, however. Indeed, Merck can look back on over three centuries of company history shaped by a commitment to far more than its core business. The ideal of the “honorable merchant” that emerged from the transition from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern period is reflected in the Merck family business. This image is also at the very root of today's efforts by companies to conduct their business sustainably.
But the direct history of the CR movement in the chemical industry, in particular, cannot be traced back to just these medieval merchants; it also has roots in the environmental movement of the late 20th century. It was the reaction to the environmental problems of the 1980s and the mounting public criticism of the companies that forced the industry to act. Chemical companies did in fact seize the initiative, addressed their problems constructively, and presented the results in environmental reports, entirely in keeping with the principle, “Do good and talk about it!”