Product safety and the health of its customers are extremely important to the REWE Group and play a prominent role both in retail and in travel and tourism, with both industries having different requirements and challenges. In retail, the REWE Group is responsible for ensuring quality and thus protecting the health of customers. In travel and tourism, the REWE Group's main concern is to ensure the trust and safety of travellers. This includes comprehensive crisis and safety management, both in the holiday country and the home country.
GRI 416: Customer health and safety
Management approach in retail
The objective of quality management is to meet the ever-growing customer requirements by continuously ensuring the quality of products. In doing so, it is important to systematically improve internal structures and processes within the company and bring them up to measurable standards on both a national and international level. Since consumer satisfaction is the focus here, prevention and food safety form the basis for quality management along the entire value chain of the REWE Group.
All activities relating to quality management – from preventive measures such as, for example, an established, systematic issue monitoring process and management system, and warehouse and store inspections through to supplier audits – are published in a semi-annual key figures report, the so-called Management Review of Quality Management, making them measurable and transparent.
A special focal point of quality management is private label products: The combine defines specific requirements for the products and their producers to meet in all steps along the value chain – from raw materials and recipes to labelling and packaging. The contents of these so-called specifications form the basis for regular spot checks conducted by independent accredited testing institutes. The random samples are determined on the basis of supplier and product risk. Foods like fresh fruit and vegetables are tested more frequently than products like salt and sugar.
For fruit and vegetables, the REWE Group has set the goal of minimising pesticide levels. For this purpose, a negative list specifies active ingredients which producers are not permitted to use in production. In addition, all fruit and vegetable products are regularly inspected for possible pesticide residue.
In addition to the products themselves, other links in the value chain are examined: All private label suppliers in the food area must be certified according to a standard recognised by the GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) such as, for example, IFS Food or the standard of the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Furthermore, the REWE Group conducts additional supplier audits on the basis of a risk analysis. This risk analysis involves evaluating a number of key figures like dissatisfaction with products, customer complaints and the risk classification of the product group. Manufacturers and suppliers who fail to meet the REWE Group's quality standards are asked to remedy the situation. Otherwise, they face the possibility of being delisted.
Moreover, annual audits of warehouses are conducted by internal auditors as well as an independent external inspection board. All areas of the warehouse are included in these audits, from incoming goods to transport to stores. In addition, special audits that focus on quality requirements for fruit and vegetables are conducted in warehouses.
Regular internal and external inspections are also conducted in the REWE Group's food stores. The external inspections are conducted on the basis of checklists prepared by QS Qualität und Sicherheit GmbH, Bonn. The lists focus on meat, meat products, fruit, vegetables and potatoes.
Products produced in REWE stores themselves, including ground meat (at the service counter) or fruit and convenience products, are subject to microbiological monitoring. These samples are examined by independent laboratories.
Quality assurance measures are implemented by Quality Management at the REWE Group. This serves, among other things, to protect the persons involved and prevent damage to the company's image.
A central customer service unit handles incoming queries and complaints. Quality Management uses the resulting key figures for supplier assessments, for example. From an organisational standpoint, the customer service department is no longer linked to Quality Management, but rather is associated with Retail Germany. From a technical standpoint, the customer service department coordinates closely with Quality Management.
Covid-19 pandemic: protection of employees and customers in stores
In order to protect employees and customers in stores, the REWE Group implemented targeted measures. For example, during times of lockdown, access was limited in some stores where customer inflow made this necessary. This was achieved through entry controls and by limiting the number of shopping trolleys or baskets. Customers were informed of any rules applicable in store via notices or posters.
In addition, all stores have a comprehensive HACCP hygiene concept and are cleaned several times a day. Stickers on the floor indicate to customers the minimum social distance to adhere to. Furthermore, REWE and PENNY have installed transparent protective panels in the checkout area of all stores as a preventive measure for employees. Signage and the in-store radio explain to customers what measures have been taken.
Observance of strict hygiene rules in accordance with the requirements of the German Infection Protection Act is obligatory for all employees. In addition, they also adhere to the AHA-L rules (keep your distance, observe good hygiene, wear a mask in everyday life, ventilate regularly) which are also recommended by employers' liability insurance associations.
Assessment of the health and safety impacts of product and service categories
As part of its quality management, the REWE Group systematically conducts health and safety audits through the entire product lifecycle. As part of these efforts, the REWE Group implemented a new IT application for product specifications as well as for laboratory and report management in 2020. As a result of this technical change, the number of product tests commissioned fell significantly from 2019 to 2020. In 2021, the number of product tests increased again.
Checks for compliance with legal and internal company health and safety requirements (absolute figures)1
Incidents of non-compliance concerning the health and safety impacts of products and services
In 2021, there were twelve public recalls of private label products in Germany and three in Austria. In Germany, foreign substances were the cause in six cases, four happened due to microbiological complaints, one recall concerned the sensor system of a product and another one was triggered because a wrong label was applied – as a consequence, allergens contained in the product were not fully indicated. In Austria, two recalls took place due to foreign substances in private label products, while the third recall concerned a microbiological complaint.
All public recalls are assessed by Quality Management and, if necessary, the suppliers concerned are audited by external experts on behalf of Quality Management. The goal of these audits is to check what measures are being introduced to operations to avoid such deviations in the future.
The public recalls carried out were isolated cases. There were not multiple instances for product groups or suppliers. In every case, customers were able to return the product a store and get a refund of the purchase price.
GRI 416: Customer health and safety
Management approach in travel and tourism
In acute crisis situations such as natural disasters, accidents or terrorist attacks, the REWE Group's goal is to ensure the trust and safety of travellers. This includes comprehensive crisis and safety management, both in the holiday country and the home country.
The Crisis and Safety Management department at DER Touristik is responsible for the safety of travellers in emergency situations. In acute crisis situations such as natural disasters, accidents or terrorist attacks, Help Teams around the world provide support to units. These employees, who have also undergone training for crisis situations, take care of the safety of and provisions for travellers and employees at the particular site, and are an extension of safety management. They provide those affected with on-site assistance, acting as liaison with Crisis and Safety Management which controls crisis situations worldwide. The Crisis Management Centre coordinates the overall crisis response, organising transport to hospitals, alternative hotel accommodations or travel home as necessary. The Help Teams are stationed at various locations so that they can be at the site quickly.
The Crisis and Safety Management office is based at the headquarters of DER Touristik in Frankfurt. As part of crisis prevention work, employees there monitor current developments in travel regions around the clock. If one of the digital early-warning systems raises an alarm, measures can be taken in no time to manage the crisis. These measures include crisis hotlines for direct contact with affected individuals and close cooperation with destination agencies, government authorities, airlines and airports. Another focus is ensuring an up-to-date and qualified flow of information for all affected individuals and the general public.
Crisis management during the corona pandemic
With the ongoing corona pandemic, DER Touristik was also facing enormous challenges again in 2021. During the reporting period, the Crisis and Safety Management team recorded 153 major catastrophic events in total. Some of these involved complex support actions for the travellers there, but also extensive support activities to relaunch destinations. There were also 190 smaller crisis responses. In addition, a dedicated Covid-19 health hotline was established, in which the safety management team was significantly involved.
The Crisis and Safety Management department responded quickly and flexibly to the dynamic and complex development of the pandemic, with the setting up of test centres in destinations, for example. Dedicated test infrastructure was built in Spain and the USA. The health hotline operators received training specific to each pandemic status. Communication measures precisely tailored to the government rules in destinations were included in all relaunch concepts (for more information in this regard, see the next paragraph).
2021 was characterised by numerous country openings and closures, with the situation quickly changing. In total, the safety management team actively supported 56 country openings. One or more “take care flyers” were created for each of these countries. There were even podcasts or videos on entry requirements for some destinations. In addition, the entire sales department received webinar training on the topic. Moreover, individual relaunch concepts were developed for each destination affected in order to be able to restart tourism following lockdown as quickly as possible – these included hygiene concepts for hotels and partners, but also extensive entry concepts. Special test strategies and offerings – for example, PCR tests for at home and rapid tests in the destinations – completed the comprehensive package of preventive measures.