The following information relates to Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA
and the Bertelsmann Group (“Bertelsmann”) with its incorporated, fully consolidated subsidiaries (“subsidiaries”) in accordance with sections 315b and 315c of the HGB, in conjunction with sections 289b to 289e of the HGB.
Bertelsmann operates in the core business fields of media, services and education in around 50 countries (see the section “Company Profile").
Taking responsibility – for employees, society, the business environment and the natural environment – is firmly anchored in Bertelsmann’s corporate culture. In its corporate responsibility management, Bertelsmann pursues the goal of reconciling commercial interests with social and environmental concerns, within the Group and beyond.
When preparing its combined non-financial statement, Bertelsmann follows the Standards (2016) of the Global Reporting Initiative (102 and 103). In addition, voluntary reporting based on the GRI Standards (2016; in accordance: Core option) is published in the middle of the financial year.
Company Principles and Guidelines
The prerequisites for a corporate culture in which employees, management and shareholders work together successfully, respectfully and in a spirit of trust are common goals and shared values. These are set forth in the corporate constitution as well as in the Bertelsmann Essentials “Creativity and Entrepreneurship.” Furthermore, the Bertelsmann Code of Conduct – as a binding guideline – defines minimum standards for ethical and lawful conduct within the company and toward business partners and the public. The Bertelsmann Supplier Code of Conduct sets out the mandatory minimum requirements for its business partners in their relationship with Bertelsmann.
Bertelsmann’s actions are also determined by external guidelines. The company uses as guidance the recommendations of the German Corporate Governance Code for good and responsible corporate governance and largely follows the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Bertelsmann is committed to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the International Labor Organization core labor standards. A member of the United Nations Global Compact, Bertelsmann supports the Agenda 2030 of the UN.
Corporate Responsibility Management
The advisory body for the strategic development of corporate responsibility (CR) at Bertelsmann is the CR Council. The CR Council is made up of high-ranking managers from the corporate divisions and the Chief Human Resources Officer of Bertelsmann, who chairs the advisory body. The CR Council focuses on Group-wide CR topics in line with the corporate strategy, anchoring CR more strongly in the corporate divisions and the cross-divisional coordination of CR activities within the Group.
At the Group level, the Corporate Responsibility department coordinates and supports the work of the CR Council in close cooperation with the other Group functions. Within the Bertelsmann corporate structure, the local management teams are responsible for implementing corporate responsibility through specific measures and projects. The corporate divisions and companies have their own structures and processes in place for this, in accordance with local requirements.
To identify key CR topics, Bertelsmann carries out regular CR relevance analyses. For each analysis, the company conducts a survey of internal and external stakeholders; the external stakeholders estimate the impact of Bertelsmann’s business activity on the CR topics, while the internal stakeholders assess their business relevance. This process serves to identify CR topics that are necessary for understanding the business development, the business performance, the position of the Group and the impact of its activity on the non-financial aspects, which include employee and social matters, respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery matters as well as environmental matters. These topics are analyzed within the company boundaries, unless otherwise stated. In 2020, the Bertelsmann Executive Board confirmed the validity of the current CR relevance matrix.
CR topics, including non-financial performance indicators, are increasingly important for Bertelsmann’s businesses, but have not yet been incorporated into the value-oriented management system. Due to currently limited measurability, no directly quantifiable statements can be made regarding relevant interdependencies and value increases for the Group. For this reason, the non-financial performance indicators are not used for the management of the Group (see the section “Value-Oriented Management System”).
A number of risks associated with CR topics are relevant for Bertelsmann. These risks can arise from the company’s own business activities or from its business relationships, and can affect the company or its environment and stakeholders.
For the non-financial matters defined in the German Commercial Code – employee and social matters, anti-corruption and bribery matters, respect for human rights and environmental matters – no significant risks were identifiable as part of the 2020 reporting. For more information on the relevant risks, please see the section “Risks and Opportunities”.
Motivated employees are key to creativity, innovation and continued business success. This corporate identity – anchored in the corporate constitution and Bertelsmann Essentials – is the basis for the Executive Board guidelines on HR work. Supplementary regulations are specified in the Bertelsmann Code of Conduct. The Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Bertelsmann is primarily responsible for dealing with employee matters within the company. The main focus of his work throughout the Group includes setting the strategic HR agenda, aligning management development with the Group’s strategic priorities, Bertelsmann University, standardizing and providing IT support for important HR processes, developing the corporate culture and implementing corporate responsibility in the Group.
The CHRO heads the HR Committee, which is the corporate committee responsible for international HR matters at Bertelsmann. Its members are the heads of HR at the corporate divisions who have a functional reporting line to the CHRO, as well as head managers of the corporate HR department.
Continual dialogue between employees and company management at Bertelsmann is a key element of Bertelsmann’s corporate culture. The goal of participation is to involve employees in the continued development of the company and to gain their perspective on fundamental decisions in regard to company policy.
Although Bertelsmann, as a media company, is free to determine its political direction as defined in the German Works Constitutions Act (Tendenzschutz) and therefore is not subject to statutory co-determination in the Supervisory Board, the company nevertheless makes four positions on the Supervisory Board of Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA available to employees on a voluntary basis. Three of these are leading works council members of German Group companies and one is a member of the Bertelsmann Management Representative Committee, currently vacant. In addition, managers, general workforce, employees with disabilities and trainees all have platforms for exchanging ideas, advancing topics and voicing their concerns. The Bertelsmann Group Dialogue Conference is an event where the CEO, CHRO and members of the Corporate Works Council from the Group divisions in Germany can exchange ideas. In 2020, this led to intensive collaboration and cross-divisional communication beyond the scope of the committees required by law, for example to tackle challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and to initiate projects such as a Bertelsmann platform for cooperating on IT matters. The same applies to representatives for employees with disabilities in the Group for implementing the Inclusion Action Plan in the German Bertelsmann companies. Employees are also involved in the development and improvement of working conditions through standardized HR interview tools (Performance and Development Dialogue, Agreements on Objectives, Team Talk), as well as international employee surveys. In 2020, numerous pulse surveys were conducted in the divisions and among top executives in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the frequency of the international Employee Survey was shortened to two years.
Highly qualified employees are needed to address major changes such as the Group’s increasingly international focus, the digital transformation of media and services, and demographic change. Bertelsmann University aims to assist employees with their performance by providing opportunities for lifelong learning, and thus contribute to their long-term employability. With four campuses – Strategy, Leadership, Function and Individual – Bertelsmann University is the central learning organization Group-wide.
In response to the global coronavirus pandemic, Bertelsmann University suspended all in-person classes as of March 2020 and moved online the international program in the areas of Strategy, Leadership and Transformation. In the process of developing digital courses focused on technology competency, new course curricula were introduced in the areas of data, the cloud and artificial intelligence. Furthermore, the three-year Udacity scholarship program was continued for a second year, providing 50,000 scholarships for which both employees and external candidates are eligible to apply. Additional initiatives with an emphasis on strengthening the company’s learning culture and social learning included the “Kollegen-Campus” (“Campus of Colleagues”), a digital and international initiative for peer-to-peer learning. In Germany, the Bertelsmann training and studies courses were also adjusted to accommodate the changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic by using adapted learning environments and an increasing number of digital work methods.
The diversity and differences in the workforce are prerequisites for creativity, innovation and Bertelsmann’s long-term business success. This is conveyed in the Bertelsmann Essentials. Furthermore, the Bertelsmann Executive Board emphasizes in its Diversity Statement its aim of increasing diversity of staff at all levels and in every respect. The diversity strategy is implemented by the Corporate Responsibility department, with support from a Group-wide working group. The focus in 2020 was on the following dimensions: gender, disabilities as well as sexual orientation and identity. Some divisions set their own additional priorities to reflect the local situation. The Bertelsmann website provides an overview of the measures used for increasing diversity at Bertelsmann under the link www.bertelsmann.com/diversity.
On December 31, 2020, the genders were almost evenly distributed across the entire staff, with 54 percent women (previous year: 53 percent) and 46 percent men (previous year: 47 percent). The Group Management Committee (GMC), which advises the Bertelsmann Executive Board on important corporate strategy and development matters, as well as other issues that affect the Group as a whole, comprised 18 members (previous year: 16), of which six were female (previous year: six) as of December 31, 2020. To enhance diversity at the management levels, Bertelsmann aims to achieve the goal of one-third of positions in top and senior management across all divisions being occupied by women by the end of 2021. To fulfil this goal, the targeted proportion of women in the talent pools was set at one-third for the top and senior management pool and 50 percent for the career development pool. These targets were already met in 2019/2020. The proportion of women in top management was increased. The Bertelsmann Supervisory Board is notified annually of the progress in regard to these targets.
The Bertelsmann Inclusion Action Plan 2019-2024 aims to form processes and structures in the German companies to maximize accessibility for employees with disabilities so they may contribute their full potential to the company’s success. The first evaluation of the measures implemented was carried out after one year as planned and is available at the Bertelsmann website under www.bertelsmann.com/disability-and-inclusion. The be.queer LGBTIQ employee network, launched in 2017, continued its activities in 2020 and actively assisted in linking the LGBTIQ networks in the divisions. Furthermore, various measures were implemented in the divisions again in 2020, especially as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Targeted Proportion of Women in Top and Senior Management
|Target for 2021
|One-third of positions across all
divisions occupied by women
|Top management1), 2)
|Senior management1), 3)
With a view to designing a health-promoting work environment and preventing work-related risks of disease, Bertelsmann is continually expanding the company health management system at German locations. Bertelsmann Health Management develops and takes responsibility for the Bertelsmann health strategy in cooperation with a cross-functional strategy group. The head of HR Coordination and Shared Services chairs this group and directs implementation of the health strategy. This individual is assisted by the cross-divisional “Health Community,” which is comprised of employees in areas of health and human resources, works council members and representatives for employees with disabilities and works on topics such as “Minimum Health Standards.” Health representatives in the German companies assist in locally implementing Health Management in business operations. The internal Health Management Consulting provides advising services and support.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the focus of management in 2020 was on immediately protecting the health of all employees all over the globe. This included setting up centralized and local crisis teams to develop and implement prevention and protection measures in accordance with statutory regulations. The most important measure was helping employees Group-wide to work from home wherever this was compatible with operational considerations. Additional initiatives included organizing and supplying masks and disinfectants, creating in-house (PCR) testing facilities and preparing and implementing plans for employees’ return to the workplace, including the necessary organizational adjustments. All of these measures were accompanied by numerous support programs for maintaining mental and physical health as well as extensive communication activities.
Furthermore, in 2020 the German companies were informed of the findings of the third status report on “Minimum Health Standards” carried out in Germany as well as the health recommendations based on the international employee survey (2019). Most of the companies are actively implementing the minimum standards, thereby already establishing the basic foundations for Health Management. In addition, the companies were provided with a toolbox for assessing the risk of psychological stress to assist them in complying with statutory requirements.
Fair Working Conditions
Strategy implementation and operational responsibility are for the most part delegated to the divisions and companies, in accordance with the subsidiarity principle. This also includes ensuring fair working conditions as well as safety and health at the workplace, which are integral elements of the corporate culture. It is Bertelsmann’s goal to implement this. The Supplier Code of Conduct contains standards for Bertelsmann’s business partners stipulating that they adhere to the statutory regulations on fair working conditions and allow their employees to speak up freely and without fear of retaliation.
At Bertelsmann, remuneration issues are an essential part of fair working conditions. The design of the compensation system is intended to ensure that remuneration is driven by market, function and performance considerations, taking into account business-specific characteristics. Profit sharing at Bertelsmann and many of its subsidiaries in Germany is based on the same criteria as those used to calculate variable remuneration components for Executive Board members and executives. A number of additional subsidiaries in Germany and abroad have similar success and employee-profit-sharing models adapted to local requirements. In 2020, a total of €100 million of the 2019 profit was distributed as part of such schemes. Other aspects of the topic “Fair Working Conditions,” such as human rights, health, continuing education and anti-discrimination are discussed elsewhere in this non-financial statement. The international Employee Survey, last conducted in 2019, also asks respondents for their sentiment on issues related to fair working conditions.
Creativity is one of the two company values at Bertelsmann. Free and critical thinking as well as exchange of varying opinions form the basis of the company’s canon of values. Bertelsmann stands for editorial and journalistic independence in its content businesses, as well as for freedom of the press and artistic license. Bertelsmann publishes a wide variety of opinions and positions. These basic principles for business activities are also set forth in the Bertelsmann Code of Conduct. Bertelsmann aims to ensure this independence in two directions. Inside the company, it means that our management does not attempt to influence the decisions of artists, authors, editors and program managers, or to restrict their artistic or editorial freedom. To the outside, this means that both content managers and company managers comply with existing laws regarding the separation of editorial content and commercial advertising and do not capitulate to political or economic influence in their coverage. In accordance with the Bertelsmann “Editor-in-Chief Principle,” editorial decisions are the sole responsibility of the content managers. 2020 saw a continuation of a variety of organizational measures to safeguard editorial and artistic independence at the editorial and creative departments. Here the focus is primarily on complying with the “Editor-in-Chief Principle,” duties of care, respect for privacy, and dealing with the representation of violence and the protection of minors.
Content responsibility at Bertelsmann means reflecting on the repercussions of the content it produces and distributes, to protect the rights and interests of media users, customers and third parties as far as possible. Overriding principles and guidelines of media ethics are set by national and international laws governing the press, broadcasting and multimedia; by voluntary commitments to external guidelines such as the ethics codes of national press councils; and within the company by the Bertelsmann Code of Conduct. In accordance with these principles and guidelines, Bertelsmann’s editorial staff are committed to, among other things, “respecting privacy and the responsible treatment of information, opinion and images.” As a result, the company expects careful research, qualitative reporting and transparency in case of errors. Thorough journalistic skills are more important than ever in the face of online disinformation. Furthermore, the issue of content responsibility is anchored in various ways in the divisions, companies and editorial departments. In accordance with the “Editor-in-Chief Principle,” the responsibility for media content lies solely with the managers in the editorial teams and creative departments. Cross-division verification teams continued in 2020 to provide their expertise in discerning between authentic and manipulated photos and videos, or those taken out of context.
In the area of youth media protection, content is monitored in accordance with different restrictions for each medium and region to see if it could adversely affect the development of children or young people. If there are indications of such, various restrictions come into force, such as broadcasting time restrictions or content and/or product labels. Through voluntary labeling systems, Bertelsmann divisions and companies sometimes go beyond the existing EU and national regulations, particularly in the area of audiovisual media. In addition, Bertelsmann companies are active in child and youth media protection organizations.
Customer Data Protection
Bertelsmann attaches great importance to protecting customer data. This includes safeguarding the personal data of company customers, as well as personal data provided to Bertelsmann by its business partners regarding their customers. The goal of customer data protection is to protect an individual’s right to determine who has what knowledge about the individual, and when. This also means that personal information, or information that could identify a person, must be handled in accordance with the legal requirements and adequately protected against unauthorized access and that the data subjects must be able to claim their statutory rights. There are various possibilities for data subjects to contact Bertelsmann, including e-mail addresses set up for this purpose. In addition to the Bertelsmann Code of Conduct, customer data protection within the company is regulated by Executive Board guidelines on the topics of information security and IT risk management.
The Executive Board Guideline on Data Protection reflects the basic legal data protection framework at Bertelsmann Group based on the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and is designed to ensure consistent data protection management across the Bertelsmann Group. A Group-wide data protection management system addresses in particular the implementation of the documentation and accountability obligations under GDPR.
Responsibility for customer data protection rests with the management of the individual subsidiaries. To ensure compliance with data protection laws, the subsidiaries in Germany have a data protection organization consisting of central data protection officers and local data protection coordinators. The latter report to the local management, as well as annually or on an event-driven basis to the central data protection officers, who in turn report annually or on an event-driven basis to the Bertelsmann Executive Board. A similar organization exists in subsidiaries outside Germany. An Information Security Management System (ISMS) based on industry-standard ISO 27001 creates the technical and organizational framework for confidential data processing. The ISMS features a regular and structured survey of relevant processes and procedures, to ensure compliance with statutory information security requirements, a systematic recording of risks and derivation, and control of related mitigation measures.
Protecting Intellectual Property
Bertelsmann’s businesses also develop, produce, finance, transfer, license and sell products and services that are protected as intellectual property. For Bertelsmann, the protection of intellectual property rights is of particular importance for its analog and digital business. This is also set forth in the Bertelsmann Code of Conduct: “We respect and protect all forms of intellectual property and protected content.” For this reason, the company is committed to the highest possible level of global copyright protection worldwide, as well as maintaining strong exclusive rights and freedom of contract – and in the same measure, also to balanced legal conditions that allow for fair competition in the digital market. The Taskforce Copyright, with representatives from the relevant German content businesses (Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe, G+J, BMG and UFA), monitor current developments and legislative processes in EU and German copyright law and develop joint positions. The focus in 2020 was the transposition of the EU copyright directive in the digital single market into German law.
Respect for Human Rights
Through its Code Conduct and its voluntary commitment to external guidelines, Bertelsmann is committed to respecting and protecting human rights within the company and in its business relationships. The goal is to minimize the risk of human rights violations and discrimination to the greatest possible extent. For this reason, the Bertelsmann Executive Board established an Integrity & Compliance program and appointed a Corporate Compliance Committee (CCC). The CCC submits an annual Compliance Report to the Bertelsmann Executive Board and the Audit and Finance Committee. The CCC chair is the head of the Corporate Legal Department. The Integrity & Compliance (I&C) department is responsible for implementing the topic, and is subordinated to the CCC in the organization. I&C supports the CCC in fulfilling its tasks and makes suggestions for necessary improvements to the I&C program. I&C ensures that employees worldwide are made aware of the key legal provisions and internal company guidelines, including those concerning respect for human rights. I&C continued its Code of Conduct training sessions in 2020 and took communication measures that included the topic “Respect for Human Rights.”
Respect for human rights within the supply chain is also expressly stipulated by the Bertelsmann Code of Conduct and the Supplier Code of Conduct. This includes a ban on child and coercive labor and a ban on discrimination and intimidation, and it reaffirms the right to freedom of association and the right to engage in collective bargaining.
In addition, in 2020 individual subsidiaries and Bertelsmann itself issued statements for 2019 in accordance with the “UK Modern Slavery Act” that condemn all forms of modern slavery, coercive and child labor, and exploitation and discrimination, and present measures to prevent these human rights violations. These statements are revised each year (if required). Infringements of these principles can be reported by Bertelsmann employees and third parties by using the existing compliance management systems.
In terms of anti-discrimination, contact persons for Germany’s “General Equal Treatment Act” (AGG) have been appointed at German locations. Employees can contact them in the event of suspected breaches of said act. The employees are informed of their rights under the AGG and given corresponding training through a wide range of communication channels. The topic of anti-discrimination was addressed Group-wide as part of Code of Conduct training sessions to build employee awareness of the issue and advise them of their rights. These and other international activities are being continually refined and expanded. Regarding business partners, the Supplier Code of Conduct stipulates that they provide a workplace environment that does not allow for discrimination. The Supplier Code of Conduct also stipulates that Bertelsmann’s business partners do not tolerate discrimination against employees or applicants for employment because of any characteristic specified under applicable antidiscrimination law or company policy.
The findings of the Bertelsmann Compliance Risk Analysis of 2020 show that the risks of human rights violations and discrimination are minimized to the greatest extent possible in view of the measures that have been taken.
Anti-Corruption and Bribery Matters
Bertelsmann actively combats corruption. As a participant in the United Nations Global Compact, Bertelsmann is committed to taking a stance against all types of corruption, among other things. A key priority of the Bertelsmann Executive Board is to effectively counteract corruption within the company. The goal is to reduce the risk of corruption to a level at which it does not endanger the company’s success. Both the Bertelsmann Code of Conduct and the Executive Board Guideline on anti-corruption and integrity expressly prohibit all forms of corruption and bribery. This prohibition also applies to all third parties that work for, with or on behalf of Bertelsmann, as stipulated in the Supplier Code of Conduct. Along with instructions for dealing with officials, and guidelines for the granting or accepting of gifts in the context of business relations, the Anti-Corruption and Integrity Guideline prescribes appropriate due diligence processes in dealing with third parties. An appropriate due diligence review is carried out for each individual risk profile through a corresponding risk classification. This Executive Board guideline also describes the channels for reporting suspected violations (especially with the help of an internet-based reporting system) and seeking advice, as well as other prevention and control measures. The Executive Board guideline for dealing with alleged compliance violations anchors an obligation to report suspected violations of the prohibition of corruption to the Bertelsmann Corporate Center. The risk of corruption is addressed in the annual compliance report submitted to the Executive Board. Relevant employees across the Group take part in the online course “Anti-Corruption & Integrity.” The I&C department, reporting to the Corporate Compliance Committee (CCC: see the section on “Respect for Human Rights”), manages and develops corruption prevention measures in the Group. The most important measures in 2020 include reviewing and voting on a new Code of Conduct as well as designing a new Code of Conduct training program to be rolled out in 2021. The findings of the Bertelsmann Compliance Risk Analysis of 2020 show that the risk of corruption is minimized to the greatest extent possible in view of the measures taken.
Fair Competition and Antitrust Law
Bertelsmann is committed to the principle of fair competition, and condemns antitrust violations and anticompetitive behavior. The goal is to reduce the risk of antitrust violations to a level at which they do not endanger the company’s success. The Bertelsmann Executive Board issued the Group Guideline for Compliance with Antitrust Regulations to anchor a reporting requirement for antitrust violations. With regard to the supply chain, the Supplier Code Conduct obligates Bertelsmann’s business partners to observe the applicable antitrust and competition law. Infringements of antitrust provisions can be reported by Bertelsmann employees and third parties by using the reporting channels of the existing compliance management system. The company acts against any contravention that becomes known, and consults internal or external experts on antitrust and competition issues. The topic of competition and anti- trust law is addressed in the annual Compliance Report submitted to the Executive Board. The Corporate Legal Department provides an obligatory antitrust training program to corporate divisions and the management and employees of these divisions who work in antitrust-related areas. This training program moved to a virtual format in April 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The findings of the Bertelsmann Compliance Risk Analysis of 2020 show that the risk of antitrust violations is minimized to the greatest extent possible in view of the measures taken.
Bertelsmann aspires to become climate-neutral by 2030. By that time, the Group aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated at its sites, by the mobility of its employees and by the manufacture of its own products by 50 percent and thus 500,000 tons of CO2 compared to 2018. Remaining emissions will be offset by financing certified climate protection projects. The Group-wide climate protection target was set by the Bertelsmann Executive Board in December 2019 and communicated in February 2020.
The most important measures for reaching the climate protection target include switching to certified green electricity, installing photovoltaic systems, improving energy efficiency and designing new mobility programs. Furthermore, emissions from the print and digital products supply chain are to be reduced in a joint effort with business partners. In 2020, the number of sites using green electricity increased by 11 sites compared with the previous year, to 81 sites. The number of sites using green electricity is to be increased again next year.
The climate protection target is aligned with Group-wide guidelines on environmental and climate protection as well as on energy and paper procurement. The Group-wide environmental efforts include not only the company’s own sites but also relevant parts of the supply chain – for example, paper suppliers, external printers and energy suppliers. Operational responsibility for energy and environmental management, as well as for implementing measures, rests with the management of the individual companies. The international “be green” working group with representatives from the Bertelsmann corporate divisions again provided a platform for cross-divisional exchange on environmental topics in 2020. Cooperation in the current reporting year focused on procuring electricity from renewable energy sources, acquiring knowledge on methods for quantifying supply chain emissions, as well as continued development of the Group’s environmental reporting.
As part of the annual environmental data survey conducted at the Group sites globally, key figures are collected regarding energy and materials consumption as well as fuels and employee mobility, and greenhouse gas emissions are quantified. The Group-wide environmental key figures are published in the second quarter on the Bertelsmann website at https://www.bertelsmann.com/environmental.