Sustainability is no longer a trend, but a necessity that companies must face in today's world. The Otto Group's corporate philosophy has always been characterized by a deep understanding of responsibility. We live responsibility for people and nature. In social dialogue and with our alliances, the international trading company demonstrates that sustainable business is possible for the benefit of people and nature. In September 2023, the Otto Group took a further step in this direction and created a new platform for discourse around sustainability: the Corporate Responsibility Experience 2023, or #CRX23 for short.
Under the motto "Acting responsibly together", the Otto Group organized the Digital Sustainability Week in the week from 19 to 22 September 2023. Around 1,500 people involved in politics, business and civil society as well as Otto Group employees actively participated in the digital discussion rounds. In addition, exclusive Deep Dive Sessions were offered to Otto Group employees, in which they were able to discuss topics such as social and ecological responsibility in supplier markets, sustainability in the capital market and the climate crisis. An event from the "Future Workshop" series was also held in Berlin.
Sustainable business: A brake on competition?
Is sustainable management still a competitive advantage or is it becoming more of a disadvantage in the face of increasing regulations and competition from the "real-time" fashion industry? The live panel with Alexander Birken, CEO of the Otto Group, Carolin Klar from Bonprix, Bernd Lange, Member of the European Parliament, Rebecca Tauer from WWF Germany, and industry expert Stefan Wenzel started with this central question.
At the end of the discussions, there was agreement that sustainability is by no means an obstacle, but rather has no alternative. However, clear demands were also made of politicians, and it was pointed out that the Otto Group still has a long way to go. It became clear that efforts in the fight against the climate crisis must be intensified by further expanding the circular economy as a possible lever.
Regulatory issues, charging stations and the marsh sofa
Throughout the week, there were varied sessions with discussion partners from Otto Group companies and representatives from politics, NGOs, and civil society. Sabine Nallinger from the Climate Economy Foundation and Dr. Tobias Wollermann from the Otto Group spoke about the economy as a driver in the fight against climate change. Here, the credo was clearly that climate protection is non-negotiable even in difficult times and that the economy can and must make a significant contribution to combating climate change. At the same time, Sabine Nallinger called for faster and more targeted action from policymakers, a reduction in bureaucracy and planning security for business to make investments in a sustainable future.
In the session on circular economy, CR officers Stefanie Sumfleth from Bonprix and Tobias Gruber from OTTO explained how sustainable product development and production can succeed.
"I would like to see the value of products gain more importance for people again," Stefanie said about sustainable fashion, adding that "sustainability at bonprix is a brand value that the customer should perceive even more strongly in the future." Both Bonprix and OTTO now offer sustainably developed and produced items in a "Circular Collection." The Otto Group is increasingly focusing on circular economy by further developing concrete measures and projects in the areas of refashion, repair, recycling and re-use, among others. Tobias explained, "For several years, we have been actively driving innovation in the field of packaging - and here, the main focus is on closing circuits, i.e., moving away from a linear system to a circular economy."
Claudia Bühler from the Michael Otto Environmental Foundation explained impressively how new, recyclable raw material for wood-based materials, packaging, construction and insulation materials, among others, can be obtained from rewetted peatlands. She said, "Drained peatlands generate seven percent of Germany's GHG emissions per year. Moor must be wet! Then the emissions will stop, and we can extract a new regional, reusable raw material from it." She also advocated more optimism about sustainability, and especially pointed out the obligation of communication by saying that it had to draw a positive vision that would take people along with it.
The value chain of an e-commerce company naturally also includes logistics and delivery to customers. Florian Abel from Hermes Germany discussed the future of e-mobility, ambitious climate targets and the challenges that arise when transport planning must work for everyone and a city like Hamburg is being transformed.
Colleagues clean up at the digital data cleaning event
Another component of the Digital Sustainability Days was the second Group-wide digital data cleaning. This project, originally launched by a small employee initiative, first took place in 2022 to reduce digital data waste across the Otto Group. This project subsequently inspired numerous companies across Germany to also commit to cleaner data management. This year, the Otto Group received additional endorsement from the CDR initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection. Together with many other companies and organizations, the colleagues* cleaned up drives, e-mail inboxes and data in the cloud.
The future needs dialog
The title of #CRX23 contains the word Experience. Experimenting and trying out new ideas reflects the Otto Group's attitude. Another cornerstone for the discourse was laid by #CRX23. The aim is to continue to bring together the most diverse perspectives to develop holistic solutions for sustainable action together.
We are people of conviction. Sustainable management for the benefit of people and nature is possible, but to achieve this we need to work closely with market participants, systemic solutions, and a change in thinking if we want to advance the circular economy, for example. There is no alternative to sustainable business.
If you would like to learn more about the sustainability topics that moved us during #CRX23 and that continue to be close to our hearts in the Otto Group, you are cordially invited to visit www.gemeinsam-verantwortlich-handeln.de! The recording of the live panel discussion is already available there, further content will follow successively. Also please stay tuned!