Working conditions


We are constantly working to improve working conditions for workers at our business partners’ factories, as well as for our own employees so that they are fair and safe. 

As an international trading company, the Otto Group sources more than one million different products from over 70 countries and works with several thousand suppliers, who in turn place orders with various factories. Despite complex and globally branched supply chains, we claim to take responsibility for our actions along the entire value chain.

Continuous improvment of working conditions with our suppliers along the entire supply chain

Code of Conduct

To ensure compliance with social standards and humane working conditions in the producing countries, we developed our first supply chain Code of Conduct back in 1996. In 2018, the code of conduct of the industry initiative amfori BSCI replaced our code of conduct, thereby contributing to greater uniformity in the industry.

Each of our suppliers is also obliged to sign the "Supplier Declaration on Sustainability". In this document, we bundle all of our requirements for our business partners for merchandise. Signing the document is the basic requirement for all business relationships for items offered through the Otto Group.

Social Programme

To ensure compliance with social standards in the factories, we launched the social programme in 1999 and have been continuously developing it ever since. The aim of the program is to create transparency about working conditions in our supply chains and to support our business partners and their factories in complying with human rights.

In addition to signing and complying with the Code of Conduct and the Supplier Declaration on Sustainability, the basic requirement for cooperating with the Otto Group is that all suppliers in high-risk countries have successfully completed audits (with the exception of third-party brands). According to this, every final production supplier must submit a valid social audit recognized by the Otto Group: certification in accordance with the international SA 8000 labor standard, an audit by amfori BSCI or an audit according to the Otto Group's own standard.

The Otto Group only sources its merchandise from factories that can provide this evidence. This ensures that working conditions in all factories are monitored by accredited auditing firms and that necessary improvements are recorded in corrective action plans. If a supplier does not disclose the factory structure or continues factory relationships without valid audit or with unresolved grievances, Otto Group reserves the right to terminate the cooperation with the supplier.

Create transparency and achieve improvements

To improve working conditions, the first step is to create transparency in the supply chain. Suppliers are therefore obliged to disclose factories that produce for the Otto Group. All supplier-related data is recorded in the so-called supply chain database. In final production, we know almost 100 percent of the suppliers. We aim to continuously expand our information on social and environmental production conditions, including in the deeper supply chain and in low-risk countries. In 2021, we were able to identify around 3,000 producers in the deeper supply chain who were previously unknown to us, thus significantly increasing transparency. 

To achieve measurable improvements in production conditions, we concentrate on six social and four ecological priority topics:

  • Social topics: Living Wage, Safe Work Environments, Freely Chosen Employment, Child Free Production, Freedom of Association & Collective Bargaining, Decent Working Hours
  • Ecological topics: Climate & Energy Efficiency, Water Efficiency, Non-Hazardous Chemicals, Resource Efficiency (Waste)

In our approach, we focus above all on the interests of our suppliers. We have adopted this procedure to ensure that the goals we formulate are not passed on top-down, but that suppliers share an interest in improving the selected environmental and social issues. All requirements are backed by measurable indicators to make progress visible.

As a retailer, we also offer articles and goods from third-party brands via our platforms. For these products, the responsibility to comply with social and environmental standards lies with the brands themselves.

EMPact – training for factories

In addition to auditing production sites, training suppliers and factory employees to act on their responsibility is a key element in achieving lasting improvements. For this reason, we have developed the capacity building program "EMPact". The name combines the EMPowerment of our suppliers with the resulting action ("act"). It includes workshops, e-learnings, webinars, homework and on-site visits. It enables factories to improve their social and environmental conditions in a protected setting and offers us the opportunity to learn even more about the challenges on the ground.


Many challenges, such as low wage levels, lack of freedom of association, respect for human rights or climate change, cannot be solved by individual actors alone. The social transformation towards more sustainability is a joint task. For this reason, the Otto Group relies on cooperation and regular exchange with relevant stakeholders to achieve sustainable and comprehensive improvements.

To address the complex tasks along our supply chain, we are therefore involved in various partnerships and cooperations, such as the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, the amfori Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) or the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry. 

We are convinced that by combining forces and know-how, we can achieve the greatest possible reach and effectiveness and thereby contribute to improving working conditions in production facilities.

Employees, Service Provider, Business Partner

For our employees, too, as well as for employees of our business partners and service providers - such as external cleaning services at own locations - we have developed specific social standards. They are consistent with internationally applicable standards, such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and applicable Conventions of the ILO, as well as legislation in the respective country. In Germany, as well as in all other countries, we comply with local laws and regulations, and we adhere to existent collective agreements.