Promoting the use of sustainable products and services is an important part of REWE Group’s sustainability strategy. To make more sustainable product ranges a success, their social and environmental added value must be communicated to consumers in an understandable and credible manner. Consideration must also be given to the fact that other criteria like price, quality and freshness go into purchasing decisions as well. Retail plays an important intermediary part in this context: without a broad range of sustainable products, consumers are unable to act in an ethically responsible way. For this reason, REWE Group has committed itself to moving sustainability from a niche role and rather incorporating it as part of the mass market.
As part of its sustainability communication effort, REWE Group takes a number of different steps that are designed to facilitate informed purchasing decisions and to excite consumers about more sustainable products and services. The key principles of communications are credibility, transparency and messages aimed at specific target groups.
REWE Group works to promote sustainable consumption and to put an end to its “niche existence”. Part of this effort involves getting consumers excited about sustainability and making them aware of sustainability issues in their everyday lives.
One key aspect of this effort is REWE Group’s Sustainability Weeks. During defined campaign periods, the company’s various sales lines explore the issue of more sustainable consumption with their customers within the context of an overarching societal topic like conscious diets, regionality and social involvement. During participatory activities on social involvement at REWE, customers can donate products with a long shelf life to local food banks. The aim here is to encourage people to take action and to bring sustainability topics, that are often abstract in nature, to life by providing specific examples. In addition, during these campaign periods the company increases advertising of the more sustainable products in the sales lines’ product ranges, including branded products. In the process, REWE Group creates awareness about sustainability in purchasing decisions and promotes responsible consumption among its customers. In 2017, REWE and PENNY each conducted three Sustainability Weeks, just as they did in 2015 and 2016. toom Baumarkt DIY stores also organised three Sustainability Weeks in 2017. The focus was on endangered species and climate protection, upcycling and inclusion. At REWE Group in Austria, the annual Sustainability Weeks were conducted under the motto of “Blühendes Österreich” (Blooming Austria).
Each year, REWE Group and the sustainability foundation Stiftung Deutscher Nachhaltigkeitspreis e.V. present the German Sustainability Award in the category Germany’s Most Sustainable Products.
When it comes to the nominations, REWE Group works together with the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP) in Wuppertal. The institute evaluates the submitted products from an academic standpoint and examines product- and company-related sustainability performance. The products are then confirmed by the jury of the German Sustainability Award. The consumers vote for the winner online.
Winner for 2017: Bio Café Orgánico from GEPA
The sales lines of REWE Group conduct sustainability-related communication activities to sensitise consumers about its sustainability involvement and sustainable consumption. As part of its sustainability communication effort during the reporting period, PENNY also used the frog figure Günter Kastenforsch invented by Janosch, a German author and illustrator of children’s book. Under the motto of “grün sparen” (the Green Way to Save), “grün genießen” (the Green Way to Enjoy) and “grün engagieren” (the Green Way to Get Involved), the cute sustainability ambassador provided clear, down-to-earth information about the ways that sustainability benefits the environment, society and customers themselves. An essential component of PENNY’s customer communications is their fight against food waste. For example, the discounter gives its customers tips on how to plan their shopping, how to store food correctly, and how best to use leftovers. In 2017, for the first time ever, an influencer campaign starring YouTube bloggers and chef Michael Schieferstein was launched to raise awareness about food waste, especially among young people.
REWE made regionality the focus of its national campaign in Germany. Customers were informed in a widely broadcast TV ad. The stores play a central role in the campaign: all over Germany, REWE store managers and independent retailers are committed to regionality. Together with their teams and producers from the region, they creatively presented regional products and carried out numerous local actions, especially during the campaign period. These ranged from tastings of regional products and themed children’s craft and cooking events to farmers’ markets in the car parks and visits to local producers.
In addition, REWE launched the “Aktion Biotonne Deutschland” (Organic Waste Bin Campaign for Germany) together with the German environmental organisation NABU in September 2017. The aim of the campaign is to make people more aware of the recyclable material compost. How can kitchen waste be recycled better and how does proper waste separation help the environment? These were the questions that NABU and REWE wanted to answer as part of the “Aktion Biotonne Deutschland”. The nationwide campaign was also supported by the Federal Ministry of the Environment, waste disposal associations as well as cities, communities and districts throughout Germany.
The products of REWE Group are labelled in accordance with legal requirements regarding their origin, composition and usage (including the expiration date). In addition to facts required by law, REWE Group labels the sustainability aspects of its products and provides detailed information about the origin of many of them.
With its PRO PLANET process, REWE Group has created a system that enables it to clearly and transparently provide sustainability information on products. The PRO PLANET website includes additional information about individual products that can be directly accessed by entering a product-specific code on the label. The PRO PLANET label serves as a navigation system for consumers (for an overview of these products in the assortment and a description of the PRO PLANET process, see GRI FP2: Organic and PRO PLANET and GRI 204: More Sustainable Product Range).
In addition, REWE Group uses recognised external labels to mark its store brands and adds branded products with these labels to its assortments. These labels include the Blauer Engel (Blue Angel), Fairtrade, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®), the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC™), the Rainforest Alliance, the German Association of Non-Genetically Modified Foods (VLOG), the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), GGN – certified aquaculture (Global G.A.P.) and UTZ. Organic and regional products also have their own labels. Nearly all fresh fish counters at REWE stores have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) since 2009 and by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) since 2012.
To enable consumers to take informed buying decisions amid this maze of labels, REWE and PENNY have posted the most important information about the labels and certifications that they use on their websites (REWE; PENNY).
toom Baumarkt DIY stores worked with the consumer group Verbraucher Initiative e.V. to develop a guideline for sustainability labels. The guideline is designed to provide customers with a map to more sustainable purchases and provides information about recommended labels found on products in the DIY store. The selection of labels is based on ratings by the consumer portal label-online.de. The guideline is distributed in stores as a printed leaflet and is available to download online at toom.de/nachhaltigkeit. In 2017, toom Baumarkt DIY stores updated the guideline in collaboration with the consumer group Verbraucher Initiative and added other relevant labels. For its non-food products, REWE Group uses the TÜV Exklusiv seal that applies to the quality and safety of products. Every product certified by the technical services company is given an individual ID number that can be used to obtain additional information. In 2017, 531 products were awarded the seal for the first time. By the end of 2017, a total of 4,238 products had been awarded the TÜV Exklusiv seal.
To provide travellers interested in sustainability with transparent decision-making assistance, DER Touristik is working on a strategy to clearly label sustainable travel opportunities. As part of this work, the number of labels used in the tour operators’ catalogues was reduced from 23 to one: the sustainability seal Travelife. Travelife is an industry-wide and internationally recognised seal. Criteria evaluated include the economical use of electricity and water, the reduction of environmental impacts, fair working conditions, respect for human rights, and close cooperation with the local population and local companies. As part of the project Green Travel Transformation being conducted by the sustainability initiative Futouris, DER Touristik is also helping to develop a uniform label that is recognised industry-wide for sustainable travel opportunities. The aim of the project is to make the offering of sustainable products transparent, thereby raising awareness levels and making it easier for customers and travel agency staff to book them. In the pilot test, the travel agency sales channels of DER Touristik (DER Reisebüro, Derpart and the member offices of DTPS) have been using the labelling in their travel agencies since autumn 2017, thereby making sustainable hotel offers visible in the quoting and comparison system “Bistro Portal”.
Many consumers want to know more about the origin of the products they buy. REWE Group responds to this wish by taking such steps as highlighting the origin of its regional products and having information about many products certified according to the criteria of the programme Regionalfenster (Regional Window) (see GRI 204-1 Regional Products).
REWE Group introduced a tracking code for store-brand fish products in 2012. With this code, consumers can go to the websites of the REWE and PENNY sales lines and learn about the supply chain of fish products. In addition, the first aquaculture products can be tracked online all the way back to the farming region. More than 80 fish products have the tracking code, representing a share of 81 per cent.
In 2014, the name of the actual production company began to be included on the store-brand products sold by PENNY and REWE. This provides consumers with additional transparency about the supply chain. REWE Group continues to be listed as the production company in only a few exceptions, including the products of the brand Feine Welt (Fine World) that are made by small suppliers.
As a matter of principle, REWE Group advertises its products and services in strict conformity with legal requirements as well as with ethical and cultural standards. It expressly avoids the use of sexist, discriminatory, political, pornographic, extremist and violence-glorifying advertising. Truth, precision and transparency are the fundamental advertising principles employed by the company. In addition, REWE Group adheres to its own company-wide code of conduct, regulations, guidelines and rules laid down by national advertising boards. To succeed, communications of sustainability issues require a significant amount of credibility. In its Guideline for Sustainable Business Practises, REWE Group expresses its explicit commitment to complying with applicable consumer-protection regulations and to employing appropriate sales, marketing and information practises in communications with consumers. As a way of considering these factors in the advertising concepts, the company’s ads are approved by the Sustainability Department before being published.
In the reporting period 2017, no significant violations were known.