A Culture of Integrity – Our Anchor in a Global Crisis

Great efforts are built on legends. America, I was told when I was a child, has its founding fathers. And many great companies are born in a garage. These stories take us back to a time when things were meant to be simpler, bonds stronger, and emotions clearer.

But the company I run, Fresenius Medical Care, is way beyond that. Today, we have approximately 123,000 employees, operate more than 4,000 dialysis centers in more than 65 countries with increasingly complex laws and regulations, and serve more than 345,000 patients. So how can we we pretend that we are one unit? How can we make a consistent promise to everyone who comes in contact with us? Our teams are remarkably diverse: some are elite academic doctors while others started working as teenagers; they come from different places; vote for different parties, like different books, pray to different gods and support different sports clubs. What unites us?

This is a difficult question to answer. You could start by saying: We respect the law. But the laws are different from country to country. Respecting them is non-negotiable, but it’s far from enough – “it’s not illegal” seems like a low bar to cross. We yearn for something much higher and more elusive: trust. We want our patients and business partners to trust us to do the right thing.

This is where Culture comes in. “But Rice,” you might object, “didn’t you tell us how different everyone in your company was? How can you even talk about one culture with such a diverse group behind you? That’s a valid question, which gets us right to the heart of the matter. I’m not talking about who our employees love, pray to or encourage in their private lives.

During their first weeks with us, every Fresenius Medical Care employee is introduced to our Vision, Mission and Values, as well as our Code of Ethics and Business Conduct. The objective is not to reduce their differences or to rationalize them, but to strengthen our bond and our common convictions. The guiding idea is simple: we do what we do because we care for our patients. Nothing that hurts their trust in us can ever be right. Our patients deserve the best: the best possible care, the best possible quality of life and a future worth living. If we are successful, everything else falls into place.

Helen D. Jessen