Compliance

Corporate governance

Good corporate governance is an essential prerequisite of our business success. We comply with the current version of the recommendations and suggestions of the Government Commission on the German Corporate Governance Code, with one exception in each case. We explain any deviations in our Annual Report. Corporate governance also means ensuring that we comply with laws, regulations and self-imposed commitments. The core guidelines governing the way we do business are set out in our Code of Ethics. Our global compliance organisation helps us to fulfil our commitments in our day-to-day business.

Compliance organisation

Our compliance organisation is led by the Chief Compliance Officer. The organisation's task is to ensure the adoption of an appropriate compliance programme in the following areas: the fight against corruption, antitrust law, data protection, and export control and sanctions legislation. The Chief Compliance Officer is supported by our Head of Compliance and specialised compliance officers in the divisions, regions and business areas, whose job is to advise employees, provide training and handle compliance cases. The Executive Board and the Audit Committee of the Supervisory Board are regularly informed about the activities of the compliance organisation and about progress achieved.

Prevention is key

Our aim is to prevent rather than manage compliance incidents. We rely here on the three pillars of prevention included in our global compliance programme: communication, training and personal advice.

Communication

We ensure that the Executive Board is involved in our compliance communication strategy and that our employees receive appropriate information. We have therefore set up a global intranet portal, which provides our employees with access to information and compliance guidelines – currently in up to 29 languages. Regular intranet news items, e-mail bulletins and features in employee magazines keep our staff updated about recent compliance topics. The year 2014 saw the roll-out of our new Healthcare Compliance Guide.

As one of the signatories of the UN Call to Action: Anti-Corruption and the Global Development Agenda, we have joined other companies in demonstrating our commitment to the ongoing development of efficient anti-corruption measures. Over the next few years, we are planning to continue to increase our involvement in joint compliance projects, for example, by participating in civil society initiatives.

Training

We offer our employees training which is geared towards target groups. While some training, such as that on antitrust 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 part of the induction process for our new employees. We follow a blended training approach, combining e-learning and face-to-face training. By the end of 2014, we had held more than 49,000 e-learning sessions on our Code of Ethics. For our long-term employees, we introduced a refresher course in which over 14,000 employees took part in 2014. More than 14,500 members of staff across the globe were provided with instructor-led training between 2009 and 2014.

Advice

We operate compliance hotlines, where our compliance officers provide support to all our employees, regardless of their role or seniority. In 2014, our compliance officers received more than 5,000 requests for legal advice. Most of the queries related to the prevention of corruption (around 30 percent) or to export control and sanctions legislation (around 25 percent). We also received queries about antitrust law (around 23 percent) and data protection (around 14 percent).

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Compliance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014

 

2013

 

2012

 

2011

Contacts Integrity Line

 

734

 

393

 

309

 

430

Investigations as a result of reports to the Integrity Line

 

127

 

88

 

77

 

54

of which referring to personnel topics (in %)

 

26.8

 

36.4

 

42.9

 

38.9

of which referring to potential offences against property (in %)

 

32.3

 

33.0

 

24.7

 

31.5

of which referring to potential discrimination (in %)

 

1.6

 

2.3

 

2.6

 

0.0

of which referring to potential conflicts of interest (in %)

 

9.4

 

12.5

 

15.6

 

3.7

Detecting misconduct

We actively encourage our employees to report any violations of our Code of Ethics, other Group guidelines or legal requirements, and we offer them advice on doing so. Staff members can approach their direct line manager or department head for advice, or they can contact a representative from Internal Audit, Human Resources or Legal Services. The Linde Integrity Line, our global reporting system, is another key element in our compliance programme. It enables employees and external stakeholders such as customers and suppliers to report suspected violations, anonymously if they so wish. Each report received is examined by the Linde Integrity Line Facilitator and forwarded to the Linde Integrity Committee if appropriate. This committee consists of members of the Internal Audit, Legal Services, Corporate Responsibility and Human Resources departments. The Linde Integrity Committee reviews the reports and determines any further course of action that might be required. Our Integrity Line policy outlines the exact process to be followed and ensures that reports remain confidential and that data is protected.

In 2014, the Integrity Line was contacted 734 times in total. Each of these reports was then assessed to determine whether it was a general enquiry or an allegation of misconduct. All specific allegations were investigated. Most of these related to personnel issues (around 27 percent) or to offences against property (around 32 percent). We also followed up reports of potential conflicts of interest (around 9 percent) and cases of discrimination (around 2 percent). In 2014, the Internal Audit department, Human Resources, Legal Services and the department for Health, Safety and the Environment (HSE) conducted 127 investigations on the basis of reports received via the Integrity Line (2013: 88 investigations).

Consequence management

Within the framework of our global compliance programme, we have processes in place to identify and deal swiftly with any suspected misconduct. If Linde employees violate laws or regulations or fail to comply with the Group’s self-imposed commitments, they must be prepared to face sanctions. Consequences following violations may range from warnings to dismissal, criminal prosecution or civil action. All the cases which are reported via the Integrity Linde and prove to be justified once they have been evaluated entail consequences. In 2014, these included training, warnings and dismissals. We apply the knowledge we gain from dealing with these cases to make further improvements in our compliance programme.