May we introduce Annette Koch, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility GERRY WEBER International AG
1. Gerry Weber is frequently mentioned in the context of sustainability. What’s that all about? Are you pushing this issue as a strategic measure?
Yes, because we are convinced that end consumers are placing greater and greater value on it and that, in choosing what to buy, they favour companies who promote sustainability, environmental awareness and responsible energy management.
Sustainability is a major issue at GERRY WEBER and of huge importance. As a result, the company set itself ambitious targets, many years ago, in terms of social standards, energy management and the use of organic natural fibres.
Even before GERRY WEBER joined the BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative), they conducted their own audit of their suppliers in the Far East, who were obliged to meet specific standards. And their own technical specialists, appointed by GERRY WEBER, monitor the production sites. Since 2010, we have been active members of BSCI and are very much involved in improving social standards in the supply chain.
In 2015, we decided to become a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles. Our roadmap, which resulted from this, was accepted by the assessors and judged both plausible and ambitious.
As far as energy issues are concerned, I can say that, since 2016, we have instigated an energy management system, which has been certified in accordance with Energy Management Standard ISO 50001. At the same time, we use a significant proportion of renewable energy. Valuable resources, as well as costs, are saved in GERRY WEBER stores, through efficient energy management, for instance – both the lighting and the air-conditioning are controlled by the so-called ‘Bluebox’. On top of that, all our stores are being gradually equipped with energy-efficient LED lighting.
And in our Halle/Westphalia site, too, we are developing and implementing a number of measures. One major step, amongst others, involves reducing electricity usage through greater transparency. Even today, we are already using more than 50 per cent eco-electricity – in the long term we are planning on 100 per cent. In addition, we shall, in future, be using an environmentally-friendly ‘e-smart’ as our postal vehicle.
Moreover, by introducing FSC-certified paper bags, for which customers are charged, instead of plastic bags, we have managed to reduce the use of bags by about half. The revenue from the sale of paper bags is sent to the not-for-profit organisation ‘Viva con Agua’, which supports drinking water projects in Nepal. In March 2017, we were able to make a charitable donation of € 35,000 to ‘Viva con Agua’.
2. ... and you’re GOTS-certified, too, with the proportion of GOTS-certified products in your product range due to be progressively extended. Have you set any specific target? What proportion will there be in, let’s say, 5 years’ time?
We have already been using certified BioRe cotton for shirts in our GERRY WEBER casual collection for about a year. With the GOTS certification, we now have an opportunity to extend this new project to other product groups and brands from our company as we go along.
We are trialling its implementation in various products such as blouses, knitwear and trousers. It depends, of course, on very many factors. We have to either find suitable suppliers or help our longstanding business partners get certification.
3. Gerry Weber’s target group are women – how important an issue is sustainability for your female customers? How well informed are they and how do you provide the information?
A sustainable lifestyle is also becoming more and more important for our customers and is increasing the demand for such items. At the same time, they don’t want to miss out on fashion. For that reason, we deliberately integrate these products into our collections and have not brought out any special lines. The first examples will appear in the shops at the end of November. Customers will be able to get information in various ways: on the one hand in the Sustainability Report, and also via special flyers and social media channels.