April 2019 Ethical Consumer searched Bayer’s website, www.bayer.com, for information about its supply chain management reporting and practices. The Sustainability section of the website was viewed, in addition to Bayer’s human rights statement. Bayer’s Supplier Code of Conduct was also downloaded.

Supply chain policy - reasonable
Bayer’s Supplier Code of Conduct included a section on labour which contained adequate provisions on use of child labor (“consistent with the International Labour Organization’s core labor standards and the United Nations Global Compact principles”), forced labor, discrimination, working hours ("shall not exceed the maximum set by the applicable national law and by ILO standards.") and compensation ("should aim at providing an adequate standard of living for employees and their families.") Overall Bayer’s Supply Chain Policy was considered reasonable.

Stakeholder engagement - poor
Bayer was a member of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI) and the Together for Sustainability Initiative (TfS). However, as there were exclusively industry initiatives these were not considered adequate and were not considered to equate to membership of a multi-stakeholder process. There was no evidence of engagement with trade unions or of an anonymous helpline that workers could use in their own language to to report violations. Overall Bayer's Stakeholder engagement was rated as poor.

Auditing and reporting -rudimentary
Bayer stated that it conducted online assessments through EcoVadis and a portion of high risk suppliers were audited physically by external, independent auditors. Detsil on remediation were weak, although Bayer stated "A supplier receives a critical result if a serious violation or several major findings in sustainability performance are identified. In 2018, this applied to 17 suppliers (2% of all assessed and audited suppliers; 2017: 3% (20)). In these cases, Bayer requests that the suppliers remedy the identified weaknesses within an appropriate timeframe based on specific action plans. We monitor the implementation of these activities by way of re-assessments or follow-up audits. Bayer reserves the right to terminate a supplier relationship if no improvement is observed during a re-evaluation. In 2018, Bayer had to end one supplier relationship due solely to sustainability performance."

No further information could be found regarding a schedule of audits or information regarding who bore the cost of audits. The company's auditing and reporting was considered rudimentary,

Difficult issues - poor
No discussion of difficult issues could be found.

Overall Bayer received Ethical Consumer’s middle rating for its Supply Chain Management.

Reference:

Bayer website (29 May 2019)

In May 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed the pharmaceutical Transparency Index run by the campaigning organisation All Trials, started by Dr Ben Goldacre and Dr Sile Lane at Sense About Science. All Trials argued that transparency in clinical trials was not being sufficiently respected by pharmaceutical companies, with seriously detrimental effects on medicine.

The Index rated 46 pharmaceutical companies on their commitment to transparency.

Ethical Consumer marked down all companies who appeared below the top ten. This included ViiV Healthcare, which was in 36th place, Sanofi, in 25th place, Johnson & Johnson, in 15th place, and Bayer, in 11th place.

Reference:

Transparency Index (14 May 2019)

On 4 October 2016 Ethical Consumer viewed an article listed on the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre Website dated 7 December 2015 and called: “Bayer sued in Germany over contraceptive pill risks”.

According to the article Felicitas Rohrer was seeking €200,000 (£145,000; $220,000) in damages after taking the contraceptive pill Yasminelle, which was said to have caused her to suffer a pulmonary embolism. Felicitas was said to have launched her lawsuit in 2011, and accused Bayer “of failing to sufficiently warn women of the increased risks of thrombosis with its Yasmin range of contraceptive pill, which contains the progestin drospirenone”.

Bayer was reported to have insisted that its contraceptive pills were safe when taken correctly.

The company was said to have already paid out aboute $1.9bn to thousands of women in the US over the alleged side effects.

Reference:

Bayer sued in Germany over contraceptive pill risks (17 December 2015)

In September 2015 Reuters announced that a US farm worker and a horticultural assistant had filed lawsuits which claimed Monsanto Co.'s Roundup herbicide had caused their cancers and that Monsanto had intentionally misled the public and regulators about the dangers of the herbicide.

The lawsuits came six months after the World Health Organization's cancer research unit said it was classifying glyphosate, the active weed-killing ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides, as "probably carcinogenic to humans."

One suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Sept. 22, names as plaintiff 58-year-old Enrique Rubio, a former farm worker in California, Texas and Oregon who over several years laboured in fields of cucumbers, onions and other vegetable crops.

His duties included spraying fields with Roundup and other pesticides before Rubio was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1995, the lawsuit states.

A separate lawsuit making similar claims was filed the same day in federal court in New York by Judi Fitzgerald, 64, who claims she was exposed in the 1990s to Roundup when she worked at a horticultural products company. Fitzgerald was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012.

Attorney Robin Greenwald, one of the attorneys who brought Rubio's case, said on Tuesday that she expects more lawsuits to follow because Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world and the WHO cancer classification gives credence to long-held concerns about the chemical.

"I believe there will be hundreds of lawsuits brought over time," said Greenwald.

Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord said that the claims are without merit and that glyphosate is safe for humans when used as labeled.

"Decades of experience within agriculture and regulatory reviews using the most extensive worldwide human health databases ever compiled on an agricultural product contradict the claims in the suit which will be vigorously defended."

The lawsuits claim that Roundup was a "defective" product and "unreasonably dangerous" to consumers, and that Monsanto knew or should have known that glyphosate could cause cancer and other illnesses and injuries, failing to properly warn users of the risks.

The lawsuits claim the Environmental Protection Agency changed an initial classification for glyphosate from "possibly carcinogenic to humans" to "evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans" after pressure from Monsanto.

WHO scientists cited several studies showing cancer links to glyphosate, though Monsanto has said the findings are wrong.

Since the WHO action, some product liability lawyers have been seeking out plaintiffs for potential class-action lawsuits over glyphosate, postings on legal websites show.

Reference:

U.S. workers sue Monsanto claiming herbicide caused cancer (29 September 2015)

In May 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed the 2018 Access to Medicine Index. This was a project of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the UK government. It stated that it “evaluates 20 of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies on their actions to improve access to medicine. The Index covers 106 low- and middle-income countries and 77 diseases, conditions and pathogens.”

All companies that scored in the bottom half were marked down for secondary criticism in the human rights category. Beyer was among them.

Reference:

2018 Index (13 May 2019)

In April 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed the “Subsidiary and affiliated companies of the Bayer
Group as of December 31, 2018, pursuant to Section 313 of the German Commercial Code.” A number of subsidiaries were based in countries considered by Ethical Consumer to be governed by an oppressive regime at the time of writing. These included: Russia, Kazakhstan, China, India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand, Pakistan, Vietnam, Israel, Colombia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Iran and Honduras.

Reference:

Bayer website (29 May 2019)