As a trade and tourism company that has millions and millions of contacts with customers every day, the REWE Group has a tremendous opportunity, as well as a responsibility, to integrate sustainability into its business operations. The company hears important ideas during the direct, personal dialogue that it conducts with a wide range of stakeholders in such places as (digital) events, podium discussions and presentations. The REWE Group shares its experience in sustainability in these settings. The result is a discussion and a discourse that benefit everyone involved.
GRI 102-21: Consulting stakeholders on economic, environmental and social topics
GRI 102-40: List of stakeholder groups
GRI 102-42: Identifying and selecting stakeholders
GRI 102-43: Approach to stakeholder engagement
GRI 102-44: Key topics and concerns raised
Approach by the REWE Group
The relevant stakeholder groups for the REWE Group were defined for the first time as part of the Sustainability Strategy that the company devised in 2008. This collaborative effort is regularly refined during intensive discussions conducted during such activities as REWE Group dialogue forums, meetings of the Sustainability Advisory Board and stakeholder surveys. The key stakeholder groups with which the company conducts its discussions include suppliers, consumers, business partners, political leaders, government authorities, the scientific community and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This dialogue also extends to the company’s own employees, Works Council, managers and independent retailers. The REWE Group conducted a stakeholder mapping in 2015 and 2016 to identify relevant NGOs in the areas of social issues, the environment, consumers, animal welfare, climate protection, conscious diets and emergency assistance. This mapping remains relevant and is continuously refined – it then flows into the planning for stakeholder communications.
Formats used in the stakeholder dialogue
The institutionalised dialogue conducted with stakeholders and communications with the major and trade media is overseen by the Department of Corporate Responsibility and the sustainability and communications departments of the sales lines.
The REWE Group has been holding its dialogue forums, a venue for personal, open and candid discussions with its stakeholder groups, since 2010. As part of this process, the REWE Group uses a number of different formats, extending from large dialogue events with up to 450 participants to smaller, theme-focused dialogues for experts.
In 2021, the company was unable to conduct any in-person events at all or not in their previous form due to contact and travel restrictions imposed in response to the corona pandemic. The REWE Group initially responded to the pandemic in 2020 by holding digital stakeholder dialogues and workshops – this process was continued during the reporting period. The REWE Group held its first digital dialogue forum in April: Nearly 450 people from politics, the scientific community, NGOs and the REWE Group attended the event. The REWE Group showed videos about its current projects during the meeting. The dialogue forum also included a round of discussions in which participants were able to ask questions in a live chat. The discussions centred on the latest developments in sustainability during the pandemic and on potential sustainability steps that the REWE Group could take as it shapes its sustainability programmes on the basis of the lessons it learned during the crisis. The dialogue is scheduled to be held in a hybrid format in 2022. Attendees will be able to join the discussion either in person or online. In June, a digital dialogue for experts was held on the topics of Nutri-Score and ErnährWert (nourishment level). The dialogue gave the company an opportunity to discuss the issue of balanced diets with expert stakeholders.
The REWE Group has also been a partner of the German Sustainability Award and Day since 2011. A special award on packaging was initiated in 2019 as part of this partnership. The event was held for the 14th time in December 2021. The REWE Group participated in four REWE Talks during the congress programme. The discussions, some of which used a hybrid format, brought together a range of different representatives of the food combine and experts from various sustainability areas.
The experts of the REWE Group also hold background discussions and conduct institutionalised dialogues with expert stakeholders in various areas – including as part of roundtable discussions, working groups and forums. They also speak and attend podium discussions and (digital) dialogue events for the purpose of sharing the experience they have gained in the implementation of sustainability programmes and exchanging speciality information during a constructive dialogue.
The REWE Group updated its materiality analysis at the end of 2020. During this work, 6,150 consumers, employees and other expert stakeholders had a chance to express their expectations to the company. By taking this approach, the REWE Group can concentrate its activities even more closely on the needs of its stakeholders (for more information, see the section Materiality Analysis).
An important body of the stakeholder dialogue is the Sustainability Advisory Board. This board provides expert support to the REWE Group as the company refines its sustainability strategy and works to make its product range even more sustainable. The board assists with communications questions as well. The board grew out of the PRO PLANET Advisory Board whose role was expanded in 2019. As part of its work, the board now works with the REWE Group on the development and implementation of all sustainability-relevant goals and measures used in the pillar Green Products for the REWE and PENNY sales lines in Germany. The board confronts the company with the sustainability-related demands of the scientific community and NGOs. At the same time, it acts as an idea generator, co-developer and communications partner of the REWE Group. The advisory board also shares its subject-matter expertise and draws on its networks. In the process, it serves as a catalyst for internal and, when necessary, external discussions. Each board member has been assigned a special issue to cover (for more information, see the section PRO PLANET).
Members of the Sustainability Advisory Board:
- Abel, Georg (Die VERBRAUCHER INITIATIVE e.V.), advisory board expert on consumers
- Geier, Bernward (COLABORA), advisory board expert on organic products
- Hütz-Adams, Friedel (SÜDWIND e.V.), advisory board expert for the area of action “people”
- Klöckner, Kristian (NABU Bundesverband e.V.), advisory board expert for the area of action “the environment”
- Pöpken, Stefanie (independent expert for animal welfare in farming), advisory board expert for the area of action “animals”
Strategic partnership with NABU
In 2015, the REWE Group entered into a strategic partnership with the German environmental group NABU in a step that intensified the collaborative relationship that the two groups initiated in 2009. As part of this effort, the joint project work being conducted in the areas of biodiversity and PRO PLANET was expanded and an agreement was reached to collaborate on such issues as protection of the seas, packaging, conservation of resources and the fostering of biological diversity. During working groups and strategy workshops, NABU and the REWE Group drew up roadmaps covering the achievement of the sustainability goals set by both groups. One key aspect of the partnership is a constructive and candid discussion that is conducted on both the working level and between the Management Board of the REWE Group and the President of NABU. NABU serves as both an important generator of ideas that can be used to refine the company’s sustainability strategy and a years-long project-implementation partner.
As part of this work, the REWE sales line became a partner in the NABU project “Gemeinsam Boden gut machen” (making up ground together) in 2020. The project provides support to farmers who want to convert their operations to organic farming or expand their existing organic farms. Starting in 2022, REWE will make an annual contribution of five million euros to NABU’s newly established climate fund for a period of five years. The money will be used to purchase or lease moors and wet meadows – with a focus on areas in Germany and EU countries located in the Baltic Sea region – that were dewatered or degraded in the past for the purpose of agriculture or peat extraction. The objective of the project is to re-irrigate these areas so that they can perform their original function as carbon sinks and habitats for many varieties of animals. In addition, farms will be assisted with their conversion from conventional operations to a climate-protecting wet-meadow management (for more information, see the section Projects and Sponsorships).
Customer and employee communications
The sales lines assume responsibility for communicating with customers about the issue of sustainability. To do so, they use weekly fliers, travel catalogues, their websites, social media channels, their stores and campaigns, among other things. This is one approach they can take to increase consumers’ understanding of sustainability as well as of environmentally friendly and socially responsible products. With this information in hand, consumers can make informed purchasing decisions (for more information, see the section Promoting Sustainable Consumption”).
At the same time, employees are informed, sensitised and excited about the issue. The reason for this is clear: This workforce acts as the interface to customers and suppliers. In their role as important contact partners for sustainability questions, employees are the very people who enable the REWE Group to stand out from its competitors.
To foster the discussion about sustainability among the workforce, the REWE sales line created the REWE Employee Advisory Board on Sustainability in 2020. Employees representing the regions, stores and logistics meet twice a year to fuel various sustainability issues within the company. The board met for the first time in March 2021, and it held its first in-person meeting in October.
The active integration of independent REWE retailers also plays a special role: These individuals attend various coordination meetings. Their ideas and experience flow into the relevant decisions that define the REWE Group’s commitment to sustainability. A group of experts comprised of retailers, the so-called sustainability ambassadors, meets together twice a year to discuss new project ideas and campaigns as well as to foster the dialogue between the retailers and the sustainability area. The sustainability ambassadors are responsible for promoting sustainability issues in their region.
All employees in REWE and PENNY stores as well as those in the REWE Group’s headquarters have a chance to expand their base of knowledge about sustainability by using an e-learning tool. The related e-learning programme at REWE was revamped in 2018 and won the eLearning Award in the category of Gamification in 2019. At toom Baumarkt DIY stores, the e-learning programme on sustainability also helps employees in stores and the headquarters gain more information about relevant sustainability issues on the basis of the four sustainability pillars.