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Business ethics

Fighting corruption

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Total is a major player in the energy sector where public authorities regularly play a role and where the amounts invested may be very high. In addition, the Group is present in more than 130 countries, some of which have a high perceived level of corruption according to the index drawn up by Transparency International. Aware that it is highly exposed to the risk of corruption, Total applies a principle of zero tolerance.

To prevent risks of corruption, Total has implemented a robust, regularly updated anti-corruption compliance program that has been rolled out throughout the Group. The aim of this program is to promote a culture of compliance and transparency, which is key in ensuring the sustainability of the Group’s operations and activities, as well as to comply with legal requirements, such as those resulting from the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the UK Bribery Act and the French law on transparency, the fight against corruption and the modernization of the economy. Failure to comply with such legislation is likely to expose the Group to a high criminal, financial and reputation risk, as well as the enforcement of measures such as the review and reinforcement of the compliance program under the supervision of an independent third party.

The commitment of the entire Group and the efforts undertaken are unrelenting in order to ensure the sustainability and continuous improvement of the anti-corruption compliance program, which the U.S. authorities deemed to be appropriate in 2016, thus putting an end to the monitorship that was introduced in 2013.

This program is drawn up by a dedicated organization acting at the Group and business segment levels, namely the Compliance and Legal Risk Management Department, headed by the Chief Compliance Officer, and the Branch Compliance Officers. They coordinate a network of nearly 370 Compliance Officers in charge of rolling out and running the program at the subsidiary level. This structured organization lies in close proximity to operational activities while having its own dedicated reporting line.

Total’s anti-corruption compliance program is based primarily on the following seven pillars: management commitment or “tone at the top”, risk assessment, adoption of internal standards, awareness raising and training of the employees, feedback of information, including the whistleblowing system, mechanisms for assessing and monitoring the implementation of the program, and imposition of disciplinary sanctions in the event of misconduct.

Management commitment

The constant high level of commitment by the General Management is reflected by the principle of zero tolerance for corruption that is clearly set out in the Group’s Code of Conduct. Managers have a duty to lead by example and are responsible for promoting a culture of integrity and dialogue. This commitment is also expressed in regular statements made by the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer as well as through large-scale communication actions, such as the annual Business Ethics Day organized on the occasion of the UN’s International Anti-Corruption Day and Human Rights Day. The fifth edition held in December 2019 was dedicated to the speak up culture: various activities were organized, including in the subsidiaries, to encourage employees to report any potential violations of the Code of Conduct

The commitment of the management bodies is also expressed externally by Total joining anti-corruption initiatives and supporting collaborative and multipartite approaches. Total joined the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI)(1) in 2016, thereby adhering to the PACI Principles for Countering Corruption. Total’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer became a member of the PACI Board in 2018 and subsequently Co-Chairman of the initiative late 2019. Total is also a member of other initiatives that contribute to the global effort to fight against corruption, such as the UN Global Compact since 2002 or the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)(2) ever since it was launched in 2002.

(1) Launched in 2004 within the World Economic Forum, PACI now numbers approximately 90 major corporations and forms a platform for discussion that brings together business leaders and governmental and non-governmental organizations, allowing them to share their experiences and ideas and develop best practices.

(2) The EITI brings together representatives of the governments of the member countries as well as representatives of civil society and business in order to strengthen transparency and governance with regard to income from oil, gas and mineral resources.

Risk assessment

To regularly adapt the compliance program to the risks to which Total is exposed, these must first be identified and assessed. In addition to the Group’s risk mapping, which includes the risk of corruption, a specific corruption risk mapping was produced in 2016 and will be reviewed to reflect the methodology formalized in a rule adopted in early 2020. At the business segments’ level, the main types of risk are assessed (purchasing, sales, conflicts of interest, gifts and hospitality, human resources, representatives dealing with public officials, mergers and acquisitions, joint-ventures, donations and sponsoring, and influence peddling). A risk mapping is also produced per entity under the guidance of the Compliance Officer. This two-tier analysis is aimed at establishing action plans that are appropriate to the identified risks and so at reflecting the realities on the ground. In addition, employees are provided with tools that help them identify the risk of corruption, e.g. the Typological guide of corruption risks.

Specific rules have been adopted and incorporated within the Group referential in order to mitigate the identified risks.

Internal standards

As an essential element of the Group referential, the Code of Conduct sets out the behavior to be adopted, in particular with regard to the question of integrity. It prohibits corruption, including influence peddling, and advocates “zero tolerance” in this area.

The Code of Conduct is complemented by a regularly updated set of anti-corruption standards. The Anti-Corruption Compliance Directive, which was updated in 2016, recalls the main principles and organizes the roll-out of the anti-corruption program. It deals, among others, with commitment, training and awareness raising, accounting and bookkeeping, the assessment system and whistleblowing mechanisms. This directive is complemented by rules that deal with more specific subjects in order to prevent the various identified risks.

In January 2020, the Group adopted a single rule to standardize the anti-corruption due diligence processes, to be performed before entering into business relations with third parties (suppliers, representatives dealing with public officials, agents with a commercial activity, beneficiaries of donations, contributions or sponsorship, counterparties in corporate transactions, etc.). In addition, an IT supplier qualification tool, which incorporates the due diligence process, was developed to gradually be rolled-out within the Group.

Due diligence involves collecting information, identifying any risks of corruption and taking the appropriate mitigation measures. This process is performed by the relevant business persons with support from their Compliance Officer, who may call on the Branch Compliance Officer if necessary.

Early 2020, a rule was also adopted to deal with the recording and accounting of expenses covered by the anti-corruption compliance rules.

Other standards deal with high-risk areas, such as gifts and hospitality, which have to be registered and approved by the line manager above given thresholds; conflicts of interest, which must be reported to the line manager and addressed; anti-corruption measures implemented within joint-ventures; and human resources-related processes such as recruitment.

Awareness raising and training

Awareness raising actions are carried out towards all employees. The Group’s intranet contains a section on the fight against corruption which provides employees with various media, e.g., the internal standards or guides such as the booklet entitled Prevention and fight against corruption. Poster campaigns communicating the key messages in the risk areas are organized on a regular basis; the latest one was launched in mid-2018. An initial anti-corruption e-learning course was rolled out in 2011 in 12 languages, followed by a more in-depth e-learning module in 2015. This module is accessible to all employees and mandatory for the targeted personal (approximately 45,000 employees) and new hires.

More targeted training courses are also provided for the functions viewed as highly exposed (such as procurement and human resources), whether by the corporate or segments Compliance teams or by the Compliance Officers in the subsidiaries. Several online and face-to-face training sessions are organized every year for the Compliance Officers.

Feedback of information

The feedback of information is ensured primarily through an annual reporting process. This is performed by the Compliance Officers, reviewed by their Branch Compliance Officer and sent to the Chief Compliance Officer. This reporting contributes to monitor the roll-out and implementation of the anti-corruption program, through figures on key elements of the program, for example the number of training courses or due diligences performed.

The consolidated data resulting from this reporting, which reflects the results of the implemented policies, is presented once a year to the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors via the Governance and Ethics Committee. This presentation provides an opportunity to report the results of the undertaken actions at the very highest level and to review the roadmap aligned with the identified areas of improvement.

In addition, Total takes actions in order to develop a speak-up culture and asks its employees to report any situations that they consider to be contrary to the Code of Conduct. This culture is encouraged by regular communications about the various speak-up channels; employees, depending on the option they feel is most appropriate, can contact any manager, human resources, the Compliance Officers or Ethics Officers, or the Group Ethics Committee. Both employees and third parties can refer to this Committee by writing to [email protected]. The Group will tolerate no retaliation measure toward anyone submitting a report in good faith and undertakes to respect confidentiality.

Assessment and monitoring

The anti-corruption program is monitored at the first level by the line managers and the Compliance Officers who are in charge of ensuring the day-to-day implementation of the rules. At the second level, controls are performed by the Compliance function, in particular through assessment missions (referred to as compliance reviews) that are undertaken by a dedicated team within the Group’s Compliance and Legal Risk Management Department. In addition, the Group’s Audit and Internal Control Division performs an annual off-site inspection to verify the quality of the reporting performed by the Compliance Officers, as well as missions relating to the Sarbanes-Oxley regulations. At the third level, Group Audit also helps monitor the anti-corruption program through audits performed according to a framework that includes compliance topics.


In line with the principle of zero tolerance and in application of the Code of Conduct and the Anti-Corruption Directive, any infringement of the anti-corruption standards must give rise to disciplinary sanctions, up to dismissal. The Group’s resolve in this matter is recalled in communication media intended for employees as well as on the intranet. This resolve, which results from the management commitment, contributes, with the other pillars described above, to the robustness of the anti-corruption compliance program.

Fighting tax evasion

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With a presence in more than 130 countries through 1,134 consolidated affiliates, Total carries out its operations in a constantly changing environment and is subject to an increasingly complex set of tax regulations, which may be in conflict when combined or subject to varying interpretations, thus giving rise to potential tax risk.

In this context, Total has developed a responsible tax approach based on clear principles of action and rigorous governance rules as set out in its tax policy statement, which was released online in 2014.

Tax policy:
Tax payments of Total represent a substantial part of our Group’s economic contribution to the countries in which we operate.
Total is mindful of its responsibility and is committed to paying its fair share of taxes to the host countries of its operations, in compliance with applicable laws and conventions and in accordance with our Code of Conduct.
Our intercompany transactions are thus based on arm’s length terms and our tax strategy is aligned with our business strategy. The formation of affiliates worldwide is driven by business operations, as well as regulatory constraints and JV requirements. It is the Group’s long term commitment not to create affiliates in countries generally acknowledged as tax havens and to repatriate or liquidate existing affiliates, where feasible.
Our tax policy’s prime focus is certainty and sustainability in the long term. We believe that the expected short term tax benefit derived from artificial or aggressive tax planning will often be outweighed by the reputational and future tax litigation risks inherent in such schemes.
The Group takes a responsible approach to the management and control of taxation issues, relying on well-documented and controlled processes to manage risk and ensure compliance with tax disclosure and filing obligations.
The management of tax risks is fully integrated in the Group’s global risk governance process. As part of this process, the Group VP Tax regularly reports to the Audit Committee and the Group Risk Committee on Total’s global tax position, risk monitoring and associated improvement actions.
We engage with a broad range of stakeholders, and especially with tax authorities, in a timely, transparent and professional manner which is the basis of a constructive and long term relationship.
As a permanent member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) since its creation in 2002, Total fully supports initiatives for greater transparency and accountability. We encourage governments to ensure that the tax reporting obligations they will impose upon multinational groups are consistent, coordinated and proportionate.
Total publishes in its Registration Document an annual report covering the payments made by the Group’s extractive affiliates to governments(1) and the full list of its consolidated entities, together with their countries of incorporation and of operations.

Since 2017, the Group also files a country-by-country reporting to the French tax authorities.

In 2019, in accordance with its tax policy, Total entered into the Tax Partnership with the French authorities, upon inception of the program, thus pursuing greater transparency, dialogue and trust. In May 2019, Total also endorsed the Responsible Tax Principles developed by the B Team, a non-profit organization bringing together business leaders and representatives of civil society with the aim of promoting a sustainable form of economic and social development. This is a new step in the Group’s efforts to promote a global responsible tax environment and encourage best practices.

Total's CEO and Chairman's B Team endorsement letter (English only)


The B Team's Responsible Tax Principles (English only)


As part of the 2019 fiscal year, the consolidated current income taxes amounted to $5,469 million, representing an average tax rate of 34.1%.

(1) URD 2019 p.421 – 9.3 Report on the payments made to governments


Promoting financial transparency

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Total is committed to ensuring full transparency in respect of the revenue generated by its activities. The Group actively participates in intergovernmental initiatives and dialogue in this regard.

Promoting transparency among host States

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) brings together players from civil society, host States and extractive companies. Its main purpose is to improve transparency in transactions between governments and companies from the extractive industry. Because it applies to all oil and mining players in EITI member countries, this initiative also contributes to strengthening the principles of accountability, fair competition and good governance.

Total joined the EITI as soon as it was launched at the 2002 Johannesburg Summit. The Group has always supported this initiative and continues to be actively involved, particularly with the presence of a Total representative on the Board of Directors.

Promoting the principles of transparency is part of a framework which is respectful of the sovereignty of the host countries: no lasting result can be achieved without the voluntary commitment of the States. In conjunction with the initiative's secretariat, the Group is committed to promoting the EITI principles among the host States in which it operates, and to assist them in the practical implementation of these principles.

Total supports governments efforts towards advancing transparency in accordance with the EITI framework, and advocates for the public disclose by countries of their Petroleum contracts and licenses.

To do this, Total strives to:

  • foster dialogue between the relevant Group officials and representatives of States, civil society and the EITI;
  • participate in the efforts of the EITI Board;
  • promote the EITI and its principles among the States in which it operates and, more generally, whenever it has the opportunity;
  • share resources and recommendations based on our experience.

The initiative is consistently recognised by the G8 (it became a focal point of the 2013 Lough Erne Summit) and the G20 also confirmed its support in this regard (Saint Petersburg in 2013).

Why support the EITI

The EITI has the advantage of being a voluntary, win-win initiative.

For companies, a transparent approach should facilitate the emergence of stable economic and political conditions, guaranteeing the sustainability of their investments. This process contributes to improved relationships with our shareholders and greater confidence in the markets. It also allows for better risk management and relationships with local communities.

Conversely, the stabilization of economic conditions attracts foreign investors, contributes to sustainable development of the host State and reduces poverty. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank pay special attention to how transparent countries are, and as such encourage EITI membership.

Local communities benefit from a better understanding of how oil revenues are allocated.

Finally, civil society improves its links with investors and international organizations. The EITI promotes good governance which strengthens public institutions and raises civic awareness.

In addition to our commitment to the EITI, we report payments made by the Group's extractive companies to the governments, States and territories in which we operate. We detail the total amount and type of payment, by country, by project and by government in our annual reference document.