We see ourselves as part of society – both at our individual sites as well as worldwide. Our aspiration is to help shape society – through our products, technologies and community engagement. That is why we work with our employees to promote a diverse range of social initiatives that help tackle challenges at the local level.
Our approach to community engagement
Worldwide, we are deeply committed to supporting the communities in which our sites are located. In this context, we focus on health, education and culture as well as environmental stewardship. Moreover, we provide disaster relief and offer support to people in need in the vicinity of our sites.
In particular, we advocate to make health more accessible to people worldwide. We do this by getting involved in numerous healthcare projects and purposefully contributing our experience in all aspects of healthcare.
We also promote culture and science education. This has a long tradition within our company. As a science and technology company, we champion creativity, the joy of discovery and curiosity as well as the courage to push boundaries. That is why we award scholarships and literary prizes and promote practice-oriented curricula, for example.
Protecting the environment and using natural resources responsibly is a task for us all. Therefore, we support various initiatives around the world that help raise environmental awareness.
We regularly evaluate the achievement of objectives and the impact of our projects. Our analysis is based on the so-called iooi method (input – output – outcome – impact) developed by the Bertelsmann Foundation. In the first step, we measure our input based on the product or monetary donations made and the time our employees invest in volunteer projects, for instance. In the second step, we record the immediate output, for example the number of organized training programs that were made possible thanks to our financial donations. We are also interested in the impact achieved for the specific target group. Our goal is to ensure that our community engagement continues to have a positive impact on society. For this reason, we are constantly working to make the sustainable impact of our projects (outcome and impact) measurable for the respective target groups.
The impact of our projects is particularly important to us, which is why we mainly initiate projects that aim to improve specific social situations or solve societal problems. 76% of our project spending goes towards this. We also support short-term and one-time charitable activities as well as initiatives that are beneficial to our business (e.g. in recruiting staff) and can help the community at the same time.
Together with reliable partners, we support many long-term projects and form long-term strategic partnerships. This enables us to strengthen our relationship with our stakeholders and helps reinforce our social license to operate.
Roles and responsibilities
The Group function “Corporate Sustainability, Quality and Trade Compliance” sets the framework and records data on our Group-wide community engagement. The coordination of the Deutsche Philharmonie Merck is also among its responsibilities. The Global Health unit within the Healthcare business sector steers the Merck Schistosomiasis Elimination Program and the Global Pharma Health Fund (GPHF). Furthermore, the Global Strategic Partnership unit, which is also part of Healthcare, coordinates Embracing Carers. In addition, our business sectors are launching their own projects, such as the educational program SPARK™. Our local subsidiaries are responsible for planning and implementing local activities on a decentralized basis. They decide for themselves in which focus areas they want to get involved. Some of our health initiatives in low- and middle-income countries are included within the scope of part of the Merck Foundation.
The Merck family of entrepreneurs also has a long history of supporting charitable causes. Their activities are organized via the Merck Family Foundation and the Merck’sche Gesellschaft für Kunst und Wissenschaft e. V. (Merck Society for Art and Science).
Our commitment: The principles of our community engagement
In designing our projects, we are guided by our Group-wide “Group Policy on Contributions to Society”, which defines what community engagement means for our company and what objectives we are pursuing. This policy gives our business sectors and subsidiaries abroad a framework for structuring their respective activities themselves and also stipulates roles and responsibilities.
Health initiatives are also governed by guidelines from our Healthcare business sector and our Access to Health Charter. We calculate the value of our pharmaceutical donations in accordance with the Guidelines for Medicine Donations issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).
With our Corporate Volunteering Guideline, we want to strengthen and encourage volunteering initiatives by our employees. They are granted up to two days of paid leave per year to take part in volunteering activities that are either run or supported by our company.
Our Good Deeds
Our community engagement activities are collectively referred to as “Our Good Deeds”. In 2022, we supported 255 projects in 99 countries in the fields of “Health”, “Education and Culture” and “Environment”. In addition, we supported people in need in our local communities and provided disaster relief.
Our projects include volunteering initiatives as well as monetary and product donations. In 2021, we spent a total of around € 43 Mio on community engagement. Product and in-kind donations accounted for 48% and cash donations for 50% of this amount. Our employees actively participated in 26% of the projects, either through monetary donations or volunteer work. As part of the volunteering initiatives, more than 1100 employees volunteered around 5300 hours during their working hours. The amount contributed by the Merck Foundation is not included in this figure. Nor are initiatives that primarily serve to market our products.
Support for health projects
We use our expertise to support health initiatives around the world. In particular, we focus on providing basic and advanced training for health workers, promoting local healthcare infrastructure and educating people on health issues.
We are dedicated to improving medical care around the world. We organize medical education programs through our Global Medical Education and Academic Organization Relations department, either directly or by providing grants to third-party medical education providers. In doing so, we foster advanced medical education programs designed to broaden the scientific knowledge and competence of scientists and healthcare professionals and, ultimately, improve patient outcomes.
In 2021, we digitalized all our medical education programs across selected therapeutic areas in order to continue delivering them despite the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, we supported 290 Independent/Continuing Medical Education (IME/CME) programs and designed 65 new company-led Medical Education programs. More than 425,500 healthcare professionals participated via e-learning platforms.
As part of our Schistosomiasis Elimination Program (MSEP) and in partnership with WHO we donate praziquantel for the prevention and treatment of the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis in school-aged children in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2021, we supplied 182 million praziquantel tablets. Nearly 50 years after its development, this medicine remains the standard of care for the effective treatment of schistosomiasis around the world. More information about our MSEP program can be found under “Global Health”.
We also officially acknowledge and reward scientific breakthroughs in healthcare. Since 2019, we have awarded the annual Future Insight Prize, which is worth € 1 million. The prize recognizes and promotes groundbreaking scientific and technological innovations for the benefit of humanity in the fields of health, nutrition and energy. In 2021, we awarded a prize worth € 1 million in the “Food Generation” category to Ting Lu, Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA) and Stephen Techtmann, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the Technological University of Michigan (USA). Their research project uses microbes to decompose plastic waste and then produce food from the resulting material.
More information on our health projects can be found on the Our Good Deeds website.
Promoting cultural and educational projects
Our projects in the field of education help to improve school and university education. In order to spark young people’s interest in science, we organize competitions, recognize special achievements and offer opportunities for hands-on learning.
For example, we support and hold the following STEM competitions: As the host of the competition in the German federal state of Hesse, we have been supporting the “Jugend forscht” (Young Researchers) competition for more than 35 years. The event took place virtually in 2021. In addition, we support the one-week “Erfinderlabor” (Inventors´ Lab) for secondary school students as well as the Germany-wide “Tag der Mathematik” (Mathematics Day).
In October 2021, we celebrated 20 years of school partnerships. To mark this occasion, we raffled off cash prizes worth a total of € 10,000 for 20 schools in Darmstadt and the surrounding area. In addition, we honored the 67 best students in advanced STEM courses for outstanding high school graduation achievements.
As part of these school partnerships, we also recognize teachers for their special teaching concepts. In November 2021, together with the German journal “Chemie in unserer Zeit”, we awarded the Julius Adolph Stöckhardt Prize to a Wiesbaden school’s teaching concept for the quantitative observation of diffusion processes in experimental chemistry lessons.
Since 2021, we have been actively promoting knowledge transfer through new digital educational formats. In our junior labs, which we run together with the Technical University of Darmstadt, we conducted virtual workshops for the first time. One of the topics was “Tracking down viruses – Insights into diagnostics”. In addition, we jointly collected ideas for sustainable energy generation in the digital “Design Thinking" course.
As part of our SPARK™ global volunteer program, employees from our Life Science business sector share their skills and experience with students in order to spark their curiosity in science and inspire them to consider a STEM career.
As an extension of our flagship Curiosity Labs™ program, we have also developed virtual programming to engage students regardless of time or location. Our Curiosity Labs™ at Home program features 20 simple and educational hands-on science experiments. Each experiment comes with a video, recipe card and lab report worksheet. The program has generated nearly 40,000 video views on social media. Our “Day in the Life” video series, which features our own scientists and experts from around the world, highlights the breadth and depth of opportunities in STEM careers within the life science industry and the diversity of the people within them. In 2021, we created 7 videos that garnered nearly 55,000 views.
Apart from our educational projects, we promote music and literature. We are convinced that culture inspires people – and that inspiration can lead to progress. We also help to strengthen inclusion and tolerance by sparking young people’s interest in culture.
We support the Deutsche Philharmonie Merck, a professional symphony orchestra established back in 1966. It is an integral part of cultural life in Darmstadt and the surrounding region and regularly tours internationally. In 2021, it was possible to hold seven concerts in front of live audiences in compliance with Covid-19 regulations. Moreover, the orchestra realized several digital video projects, for example it performed in two livestream concerts, posted an interactive music box online with over 30 chamber music pieces and published a musical Advent calendar.
Like music, literature is an important mediator between cultures. We therefore award five literary prizes worldwide: in Germany, Italy, India, Japan, and Russia. These awards mainly recognize authors who build bridges between cultures as well as between literature and science.
More information about our cultural and educational projects can be found on our website Our Good Deeds.
Supporting environmental initiatives
We are involved in various environmental initiatives and promote environmental awareness among our employees through group activities. Our engagement ranges from joint litter collection and tree planting campaigns to supporting organizations that improve access to clean water in remote areas.
On the occasion of World Cleanup Day in 2021, we organized litter collecting activities with our employees. These took place at our sites in Darmstadt, Gernsheim (Germany) and Belgrade (Serbia). More than 100 employees took part.
More information about the environmental initiatives that we support can be found on our website Our Good Deeds.
In August 2021, we initiated a donation campaign for those affected by the catastrophic flooding that occurred in western Germany. More than 1,200 employees participated and donated around € 143,000 via a dedicated donation platform run by the German Red Cross. The company increased this amount to € 300,000 in total. We thus contributed to immediate aid, support and reconstruction programs.