You can only solve major global tasks collectively. These include the ongoing expansion of sustainable standards in supply chains, the strengthening of democratic structures, or the responsible handling of the impacts from digital transformation. The Otto Group has been addressing these challenges for a long time. Ultimately, however, they can only be comprehensively taken on in an alliance with many partners. That is why we have been dedicating ourselves to a number of initiatives and contributing our experience as a member in diverse organizations.
We are part of the HR group at the German Academy of Technical Sciences [Deutschen Akademie für Technikwissenschaften] (acatech). Human resources experts from the business and scientific community discuss the opportunities and challenges of the digital transformation there and offer ideas for a wide-ranging societal debate on this topic. Representatives from the Otto Group and other members of the circle discuss topics such as how to design education in the STEM fields so that young people can codesign the digital transformation in a technically skillful manner. Or what contemporary continuing education measures should look like so that they can have an impact in rapidly changing work environments.
We are one of the founding members of the “Business Social Compliance Initiative,” called amfori BSCI today. It has facilitated long-term partnerships between textile dealers and producers since 2004. Jointly, we should improve working conditions along the supply chain by arranging independent inspections. For example, the Otto Group and amfori launched a forum in 2017 to strengthen the rights of Syrian refugees who had been illegally employed in the Turkish textile industry.
Since 1987, we have been involved in B.A.U.M. (Bundesdeutscher Arbeitskreis für Umweltbewusstes Management e.V.), the network for sustainable business, and are part of the transformation to a social-ecological market economy. The Otto Group is represented on the network's advisory board.
We are part of the Business Council for Democracy (BC4D) network because the Otto Group considers the strengthening of our democracy and defending it against attacks to be an essential task. BC4D offers employees of the participating companies free training. They learn how to handle hate speech online and how to react, how to unearth and question targeted disinformation and conspiracies, and how to contribute to preserving the Internet as a space for diversity and tolerance.
We signed the Diversity Charter. The Otto Group is committed to defining our corporate culture of mutual respect. We want to offer a work environment in which respectful treatment of each other is lived out and employees find their place and can apply their skills, irrespective of age, ethnic origin and nationality, gender and gender identity, physical and mental skills, religion and worldview, sexual orientation, and social origin.
We support the initiative „Fashion for Good“. It connects start-ups and investors via an innovation platform to fundamentally change the fashion industry. The goal is to establish technologies and business models that help to make the textile industry more sustainable and climate-neutral. For example, this commitment produced the partnership between OTTO and the start-up Cadel Deinking. The Spanish company developed a technology for the high-quality recycling of plastic bags.
When procuring furniture wood and paper, we rely on certified materials from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®), which has formulated strict standards for ecologically responsible forest management worldwide. As a member of the FSC since 2006, wooden articles in our own and licensed brands as well as from strategically relevant suppliers and catalog paper with the corresponding certificate are an integral part of our goals for sustainable materials.
Since 2014 we are a member of the "Fur Free Retailer" program of the animal welfare foundation "Vier Pfoten". The signatories commit not to use real fur. Beyond the self-commitment to be fur-free, this sends a clear public signal for animal welfare.
In 2013, we played a major role in shaping the „Accord on Fire and Building Safety for Textile Factories in Bangladesh“. The agreement was drafted by the trade union umbrella associations IndustriALL and UNI, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), and national unions. It includes rules for independent inspections of participating textile factories in Bangladesh and shows ways for employees to complain about too little protection at their workplace. In 2021, international companies, including the Otto Group, and unions, agreed to a new International Accord for occupational safety in the international textile and clothing industry and the continuation of the measures already adopted. We are committed to continuing the Accord until it becomes a binding industry standard throughout the entire clothing sector in Bangladesh.
NEWS UPDATE (31 May 2021)
Global unions and international brands have agreed to a three-month extension of the 2018 Transition Accord commitments to enable further negotiations for joint progression of Accord achievements. The Otto Group has been continuously active in the Bangladesh Accord since 2013 and has contributed with a lot of dedication and commitment to achieving significant improvements in the textile industry in cooperation with international trade unions. As a member of the RSC Steering Committee, the successor organisation to the Accord, which formally expires at the end of May 2021, we want to continue the successes already achieved. The Otto Group is committed to making the RSC the industry standard to ensure workers‘ safety across the Bangladesh garment sector now and in the future. The Otto Group, as a member of the Accord’s Steering Committee, the Brands Association and the RSC‘s Executive Committee, is very pleased with the agreement reached between the brands and the unions and welcomes the joint way forward. Accordingly, the Otto Group has signed the Interim Agreement on 31 May 2021, with the International Trade Unions IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union.
NEWS UPDATE (16 May 2019)
The Otto Group advocates the continuation of the Accord until the expertise and responsibilities have been fully transferred to national authorities and are established.
In November 2020, we presented a study on voluntary sustainability cooperations (German language only) with the Institute for Corporate Leadership and Organization at the Leibniz University of Hannover. It shows the types of cooperation that are possible in the textile industry, the potential strategies to pursue, and the approach for successful action that is socially and ecologically sustainable. The study included the Otto Group’s experiences over the last 25 years in various alliances. The manual should help other companies negotiate their way in the broad field of cooperation and joint initiatives.
The Otto Group stands by its social responsibility and wants to support families and children in particular. To this end, it has teamed up with Save the Children to implement projects with a strong and experienced partner that aim to sustainably improve the lives of parents, families and young workers in supply chains and to support factories in becoming responsible and family-friendly employers. More information on the project in China and Turkey can be found here (in German only).
We are intensively addressing the alignment of our climate targets and climate protection activities with the Paris Climate Agreement and the 1.5-degree target formulated therein. In 2022, we officially committed to the Science Based Targets Initiative to develop a science-based target for the Otto Group within the next two years. This science-based climate target includes the entire value chain, which, in addition to our own business activities, is intended to reduce CO₂e emissions in the deeper supply chain in the production (Scope 3) of our retail goods in particular.
Since 2018, we have been a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the largest industry alliance for the sustainable production of apparel, footwear and textiles. The goal of the SAC is to establish industry-wide sustainability standards and common tools in the sector. With the help of the Higg Index, for example, we carry out standardized measurements of environmental sustainability in the supply chain and use the Material Sustainability Index to evaluate fabrics and fibers in our articles. In this way, we increase transparency about production conditions, determine the impact of our products on the environment in a more targeted way, and improve these step by step.
Since 2015, we have been a member of the „Alliance for Sustainable Textiles“ (Bündnis für nachhaltige Textilien). The Otto Group supported the initiative of the federal government from the beginning and has represented the interests of the business community in its management group since 2015. The Alliance networks industry, commerce, NGOs, and policymakers to shape the global textile supply chain in a more social and ecological manner through joint standards. The Otto Group is active in two Partnership Initiatives—“Living Wage Lab” and “Tamil Nadu” (improvement of working conditions in the textile and clothing industry in the eponymous Indian state). On the website of our local implementation partner MSI-TN you can find more information on the Tamil Nadu initiative and an overview of the completed trainings.
Since 2017, the Otto Group has also published a Roadmap annually with individual targets and measures and, since 2018, Progress Reports with target achievements. All reports have been externally and independently verified and published on the Partnership website and for the years 2017 to 2019 on this website, too (see below). The previous Roadmaps and Progress Reports in PDF format are replaced since 2020 by a review report on the website of the Textile Partnership.
Since 2006, we have been a member of the non-profit organization Textile Exchange to further develop industry standards for sustainable materials and share knowledge with companies in the fashion industry. In regular roundtables and the annual Textile Sustainability Conference, we network with other players in the market to collectively drive a sustainable transformation of the industry.
In 2018, we signed the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action to improve the climate impact of the fashion sector across the entire value chain. The Charter for Climate Action is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The aim is to gradually reduce CO₂ emissions along the entire textile value chain. In this way, climate neutrality is to be achieved by 2050 in order to limit climate change to a maximum of 1.5°C. With a holistic approach to climate protection with approaches to reduce emissions in the supply chains, the focus of this globally active initiative is particularly on joint implementation. In addition to active participation in higher-level committees and selected working groups, we support the comprehensive goals of the Fashion Charter to transform the fashion sector in the long term.
Since 2021, we have been a member of the Value Balancing Alliance, a non-profit association of companies for the development of a uniform, internationally recognized assessment method for calculating sustainability indicators. Through the work and exchange in this alliance, we want to optimize the measurability and management of our sustainability measures through generally applicable accounting methods and use our pioneering role in the retail and textile sector to actively help shape industry standards.
In 2020, we launched the ZukunftsWerte initiative. Together with other entrepreneurs, managers, politicians, and civil society representatives, we would like to take on the many challenges of the digital transformation. The important part in this is that we succeed with a digital transformation that is based on European values and the rules of the social market economy. In Europe, we need an autonomous digital economy that sets itself apart from the Californian and Chinese model. Ours should demonstrate responsibility to society and be sustainable and conserve resources. The Otto Group would like to use the initiative to contribute to implementing this model.