Our producers and materials manufacturers in Europe and in Asia play a special role when it comes to sustainability. The risks regarding environmental impact are significantly greater at these facilities than at our company headquarters in Obereisenbach. Working conditions must be carefully monitored. At the same time, it is a special challenge for us as the contracting authority to find ways to positively influence this impact because our producers and material suppliers are independent companies that we can’t regulate.
Collaboration with external partners such as the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) and bluesign® along with membership in the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles helps us to implement our own high standards at our material manufacturers as well.
We have already seen significant achievements in social standards thanks to longstanding, collaborative work with the Fair Wear Foundation and our producers. In 2015, we achieved Leader status of the Fair Wear Foundation and in the coming years we are planning to build a similar system one step upstream in the supply chain for our material manufacturers.
We have also already achieved important milestones when it comes to an environmentally friendly supply chain. 83% of our Summer Apparel Collection consists of bluesign® system certified fabrics. Since 2015, we have been conducting a project to establish an environmental management system focusing on chemicals management including wastewater management with our suppliers. Currently eight suppliers are participating. Our goal is to extend the project in the following years to all of our material suppliers. This involves a high degree of resources, both in personnel and finances, which is really challenging for us.
More at: "Leader status of the Fair Wear Foundation" and "Suppliers as partners"
Our intention is to take on responsibility for the entire life cycle of our products, which also includes clean and safe production in our supply chains. This is why have made an obligation with the Greenpeace Detox Commitment to prevent the release of harmful chemicals into the environment. The limits indicated in the VAUDE MRSL and exclusion of individual substances often go beyond legal requirements (REACH) and the requirements of other textile standards.
Our systematic approach consisting of a strict MRSL and testing shows us precisely where we still need to take action – for which materials and which suppliers – so that we can engage in targeted improvements with our partners.
In 2016, independent testing institutes examined 58 material samples and salable goods. All samples met the REACH requirements. Only 8 material samples had levels higher than those allowed in our MRSL. We are working closely with our suppliers to achieve improvement.
We are committed to the production of thoroughly sustainable products. Therefore, we developed the Green Shape approach, which considers the entire product life cycle from design and material selection, production, transport, distribution, utilization phase to the product’s end of life.
We have already achieved important steps in material selection, production and the utilization phase. 94% of our 2018 Summer Apparel Collection is Green Shape.
Turning our ideal of a closed-loop product lifecycle into reality is currently a particular challenge for us. We have set ourselves the goal of actively promoting a closed loop product development in order to slow and close the fabric and production cycle. This means both extending the product’s lifespan along with recycling and re-using used products as raw materials.
We have a wide variety of measures in progress for extending the lifecycle of our products, with a focus making all VAUDE products repairable. We have our own Repair Service that fixes about 40% of all returns each year. For technical reasons, we can’t fix everything that comes in. For example zips in the high-stretch materials of cycling jerseys or soft shells: Clearly, we can replace a zip, but taking out the original sometimes leaves behind stitching holes that can turn into a run in the fabric. In addition, we don’t have all of the machinery needed to make repairs available because of viability issues due to the low rate of returns.
To further increase our repair rates, we are collaborating with iFixit to offer repair manuals and spare parts shipment for simple repairs that you can carry out yourself in your home.
To make it possible to reuse products as raw materials, we are working actively on the issue of upcycling of production remnants from our Manufaktur and leftovers from our Repair Service. Now that we have some experience with quite a few projects, we have set ourselves the goal of building our own upcycling program with a materials exchange market.
In addition, improving the technical infrastructure for textile recycling in Europe is needed. That is why we are committed to a network for the collection, sorting, processing and recycling of used products. The industry also needs marketable technologies for single-material recycling of mixed materials that are currently still in the development phase.
To measure the sustainability performance in our supply chain, we need data transparency, for example on energy consumption, water consumption and waste generation. This is challenging for several reasons. One is that our partners (producers and material manufacturers) in the supply chain are independent companies and often don’t collect thorough data or don’t want to publish it for economic and competitive reasons. Another reason is that methods for the industry-wide collection of data are still lacking.
This is why we are committed to the Higg Index for the issue of transparency in the supply chain. The Higg Index is being developed as a joint project of the textile industry and is the first international standard instrument for measuring the sustainability of textile products in the supply chain. We are actively participating in its development.
More at "Higg Index"
Our products generally have to be transported over long distances from the producer to our retail customers. This transport generates emissions so we make sure to ensure that our transport is as environmentally friendly as possible. Together with myclimate, we have calculated a variety of transport and emissions scenarios. Currently, our products travel primarily by large container ship and by rail from their place of production to our warehouse. These methods generate the lowest emissions according to our calculations.
Nevertheless, we still see room for improvement. In 2016 we analyzed how we could make our transport even more environmentally friendly in a project with the University of Darmstadt. Within the project we defined a roadmap with several measures.
More at "Merchandise logistics"
The world is becoming more complex, uncertain and ambiguous and the momentum is increasing. This has given rise to a number of challenges for both our organization and our employees and the demands they make on employees are high. In some cases, this uncertainty can result in excessive demands on particular individuals.
Since 2013 we have been working diligently to find solutions with a program of trust and innovation. The central question is what structural and cultural changes do we need to make to remain sustainable and innovative so that we will have a secure future. We have found many effective answers that are summarized under the title "The self-effective organization."
The self-effective organization makes use of the duality of security and insecurity. Our values such as trust and partnership, our visions and goals form the basis and provide orientation in order to self-effectively and quickly react to challenges. In doing so, we can develop diverse and tailored solutions. We are making use of a wide variety of approaches – from complete self-organization and non-hierarchy in interdisciplinary teams to process reliable processes.
The self-effective organization depends on all employees giving feedback – both critical and constructive. Treating each other as equals is a central component that leads to a highly effective organization and employees.
Currently we are in the progress developing and creating a self-effective organization. In mid 2016 we began restructuring our marketing department. Gradually, we are expanding the process to other departments at VAUDE.
More at "VAUDE culture of trust"
Our intention is to create the structures for a health balance between professional and personal life. We have managed to develop a family-friendly culture. On average, we have about 50 employees who are on parental leave each year. Our VAUDE birth rate is four times the German average.
We are making nearly everything possible and yet we occasionally must face the limits and special effort that following this path entails. The challenges that we are confronting include organizational management and the assurance of our productivity.
Many employees work part-time for family reasons. The management of our high rate of part-time employees (37% in 2016) involves increased effort for the HR department, additional costs for workplace equipment and difficulties for daily work, especially in scheduling.
Furthermore, our childcare center is operating at full capacity and we can’t guarantee every employee the opportunity to have their child cared for directly here at VAUDE.
In 2016 our HR department developed concepts for parental leave and re-entering the workforce in order to streamline management. We are currently working on a concept for job sharing and job rotation for managing our high part-time employee rate. In addition, in the future we want to examine the issue of care-giver leave and professional sabbatical because we feel that they are becoming ever more relevant for our employees.
Our aim is to do business that is climate-neutral and to reduce our emissions as much as possible. About half of the emissions in VAUDE’s carbon footprint come from business travel and commuting. We have an urgent need to implement measures aimed at reducing emissions.
For years we have had a mobility concept with six components, an environmentally friendly travel policy and set ourselves ambitious goals. Nevertheless, we still haven’t managed to effectively reduce our emissions in these areas. We still have a lot to do to meet this challenge.
This is where we are committed to a joint effort between local government, transportation companies and industry in the development of transportation concepts. Examples include new forms of public transport and better connections, eMobility and other eco-friendly alternative technologies and improved cycling infrastructure.
In order to reduce emissions from business travel, we want to strengthen the use of technologies that can help us avoid business travel, revise our travel policy and examine incentives for reducing the use of company cars. In addition, our intention is to switch our company fleet to alternative motor technologies. Because satisfactory solutions aren’t yet available, this transition will take some time to complete.
For several years now, the outdoor industry has been growing at a very low level and has developed into a competitive market. For us as a family-owned company in an industry that is dominated by more and more companies backed by financially strong investors, this means ensuring economic independence through careful planning and the use of alternative financing options - see "Sustainable business is worthwhile".
In addition, the international outdoor market has been characterized by numerous upheavals in recent years. Examples include strong concentration processes for both stores and brands, winters with little snow and strong fluctuations in the dollar exchange rate. In order to secure our business success, it is very important for us to be independent of these upheavals. We are therefore committed to a healthy balance of several sources of income.
Compared to our competitors, we have been meeting these challenges well so far. Our growth rates in recent years were higher than the European outdoor market average. Nevertheless, we must continue to deal consistently with the opportunities and risks of the market and conduct our strategic and economic planning based on the findings of market analysis. We are committed to a long-term perspective and homogenous, stable growth.
In order to establish a successful sustainability management system, the technical requirements necessary to optimally utilize available knowledge and data about our own sustainability performance must be created. Currently, data collection, evaluation and analysis are largely done manually. This is very time-consuming and error prone.
In order to increase our efficiency and monitor it even more specifically, the development of our IT landscape in the coming years is a high priority. Since 2016 we have been working on a transition to a new ERP system that will integrate the sustainability management system.
The challenge is that the ERP systems available on the market do not meet our requirements. The integration of sustainability management into such a system is therefore associated with large amounts of time and financial resources. We have developed a design for this integration, and implementation is planned to take place by 2020.
We understand sustainability to be a team sport. Many of the challenges that our company is facing cannot be overcome by working alone. Therefore, we are actively working with other companies, associations, researchers and other stakeholders inside and outside the industry.
More at "Our commitment in initiatives"