Good corporate governance is a foundation for our sustainable business success. We comply with the German Corporate Governance Code’s guidelines presented by the Government Commission to the greatest possible extent, and explain any deviations in our annual report.
Responsible corporate governance also means ensuring that laws, regulations and self-imposed commitments are upheld. The core guidelines governing the way we do business are set out in our Code of Ethics. Our global compliance organisation supports implementing our commitments in everyday business.
The Chief Compliance Officer is responsible for Linde’s compliance management system, which is implemented by the Global Head of Compliance and executed by our full-time Compliance Officers in the divisions, regions and operating segments. Their tasks include providing expert advice, training and case management on the following key compliance areas: corruption prevention, competition/antitrust, data protection and trade compliance. The Executive Board and the audit committee of the Supervisory Board receive regular updates about the activities and progress of the compliance organisation.
Prevention is key
Our aim is to prevent rather than manage compliance incidents. For this, we have implemented a comprehensive compliance management system with global reach. Our three pillars of prevention are communication, training and personal advice.
Our compliance communication strategy focuses on setting the right tone from the top and ensuring that information is received throughout the Group. Linde operates a global compliance intranet, which provides employees with easy access to information, compliance guidelines and other resources - currently in up to 29 languages. Regular intranet news items, e-mail announcements and features in employee magazines keep staff updated on recent compliance topics.
It is important that our employees are not only aware of laws, regulations and self-imposed commitments, but that they truly understand these rules and know how to apply them. We support this through target group oriented training. Whilst some training such as that on competition law is targeted only at selected employees, other training such as that on the Code of Ethics is directed at all employees. Compliance training is also a part of the induction process for our new employees. We follow a blended training approach, combining face-to-face training with e-learning. By the end of 2013, we had held more than 42,500 e-learning sessions on our Code of Ethics. Over 10,000 members of staff across the globe were provided with on-site training between 2009 and 2013. More than 18,500 working hours had been invested in competition law e-learning by the end of 2013. In the course of the year, we also launched the Compliance Training Refresher Initiative to ensure that employees regularly refresh and update their knowledge on compliance topics.
The Linde Group operates compliance helplines, where our Compliance Officers provide personal expert advice to all Linde employees, regardless of their function or seniority. In 2013, the compliance helplines received more than 3,500 requests for legal advice.
We actively encourage our employees to report any suspected violations of our Code of Ethics, other Group guidelines or legal requirements, and we offer them advice on compliance issues. Staff can approach their direct line manager or department head for advice, or they may contact a representative from Internal Audit, Human Resources or Legal Services.
working hours invested in competition law e-learning
The Linde Integrity Line, our global reporting system, is a key pillar of our compliance management system. It enables employees and external stakeholders to report suspected violations, anonymously if desired. Every report is initially assessed by the Linde Integrity Line Facilitator and forwarded to the Linde Integrity Committee where appropriate. The committee comprises members of the Internal Audit, Legal Services, Corporate Responsibility and Human Resources departments. The Linde Integrity Committee reviews the reports and determines further courses of action. Our Integrity Line policy outlines the exact process to be followed and ensures that reports remain confidential and data is protected.
In 2013, the Integrity Line was contacted 393 times in total, by e-mail, web portal, letter or telephone. Each of these communications was assessed to determine whether it was a general enquiry or an allegation of misconduct. All concrete allegations were investigated. Most of these related to either personnel topics (approximately 36 percent) or to offences against property (approximately 33 percent). We also followed up reports of possible conflicts of interest (around 13 percent) and cases of discrimination (around 2 percent). In 2013, the Internal Audit department, Human Resources, Legal Services and the department for Safety, Health and Environment carried out 88 investigations on the basis of reports received via the Integrity Line (2012: 77 investigations).
Should a violation occur despite our preventative measures, the Linde compliance organisation has the processes in place to identify and tackle suspected misconduct swiftly. Linde employees who violate laws, regulations or self-imposed commitments must be prepared to face sanctions. Consequences following violations can range from warnings to dismissal, criminal prosecution or civil action. Consequence management measures for Integrity Line cases in 2013 included counselling, warnings and terminations. Identified misconduct is also taken as an opportunity to re-evaluate and continue to improve the compliance management system. The business consultation process for handling cases of possible misconduct was revised in 2013. Relevant stakeholders, including the responsible line managers, are involved in this process and provide their input.