Materiality, Impact, and Risks
For United Internet, compliance means both observing all statutory requirements and internal organizational guidelines, and acting in accordance with our corporate values. Its aim is therefore to ensure that all employees act in a legally and ethically acceptable manner. For United Internet, compliance is a precondition for doing business successfully in the long term and hence an integral part of all Group activities.
United Internet AG’s Management Board has established a compliance management system (CMS) to ensure ethical behavior and adherence to the law throughout the Group. The Group General Counsel, which reports directly to United Internet AG’s CFO, is responsible for the CMS. Compliance is part of our end-to-end risk management approach, which comprises the Governance, Risk Management & Compliance (GRC), Corporate Audit, and Legal Department functions. Pooling these functions allows a common management approach to be adopted, utilizing and linking thematic and process interfaces. Function-specific and local compliance managers have been appointed for the operating divisions and segments, and for the group’s foreign companies. They perform this role in addition to their other responsibilities and help implement compliance measures, among other things.
The overarching objective of our compliance activities is to prevent compliance violations. We achieve this by taking appropriate measures that are based on the Company’s risk position, in keeping with our three-tier activity hierarchy – “Prevent, Detect, and Respond.” Our compliance activities focus primarily on prevention: transparent rules, well-informed employees, and early identification of potential infringements are the keys to success here.
Our Code of Conduct is the foundation for legally and ethically acceptable behavior. It summarizes the main rules, explains them using examples, and gives concrete recommendations for dealing with colleagues, customers, business partners, competitors, shareholders, public authorities, and the media. At the same time, the Code refers to our key internal guidelines, offering employees a rapid overview.
Among other things, Our Code of Conduct contains rules on how to ensure fair competition and anti-corruption. In line with our corporate value of fairness, it clearly states that we aim to outperform our competitors fairly and honestly, and that we will not employ any unfair practices to prevent, restrict, or distort competition.
In addition, our Code of Conduct clearly sets out the measures that we take to prevent corruption, and uses concrete examples to explain what we mean by anti-corruption. We do not tolerate corruption, regardless of where it happens, whom it targets, or what the reason for it is. In line with this, directly or indirectly offering or granting any form of undue benefits (bribery), and requesting or accepting such benefits (corruption), are prohibited.
These basic rules are set out in more detail in our internal guidelines on preventing corruption and dealing with incentives(1) and conflicts of interest. The guidelines are supplemented by approvals processes and confidential reporting channels that enable employees to contact designated persons of trust outside their immediate working environments. There were no incidents of corruption or indications of potential cases of corruption in the reporting period, as in the year before.
(1) As defined by our compliance guidelines, incentives are any inducements aimed at rewarding a business partner’s employees for their work and/or to motivate them to do more/better in future. This includes performance bonuses and customer events, among other things.
The Compliance department at our German locations launched an e-learning course on our Code of Conduct in fiscal year 2018 in order to provide employees with an interactive way of familiarizing themselves with its contents and to communicate its rules effectively. Following its domestic rollout, the e-learning course was extended to cover the Group’s foreign companies in fiscal year 2019. Participation in the e-learning course is an integral part of employee onboarding. In addition, new employees are made aware of the importance of compliance during their “welcome days.”
We use specific measures to benchmark whether we have achieved our compliance goals. These measures-based performance indicators include training and e-learning course participation rates and the number of approvals issued in the course of anti-corruption and other compliance processes. In addition, we use e.g., inquiries and information about possible compliance breaches, and the findings of internal investigations and compliance audits, to identify potential for optimizing processes and rules.
As of December 31, 2020, 6,586 employees (2019: 5,845; 2018: 4,640) had successfully completed the mandatory e-learning course on our Code of Conduct. This corresponds to an overall participation rate of 92.29% (2019: 92.50%; 2018: 92.35%)(1).
(1) The scope of application has been expanded over the last two years, meaning that the figures are not directly comparable with those for the preceding year in each case. In the reporting period, the e-learning course was aimed at all United Internet Group employees except for those in independently managed companies. Staff working for 1&1 Telecommunication SE, including its subsidiaries, have been able to take the course since 2018. It was rolled out to the remaining 1&1 Drillisch Group companies in the reporting period.