Search Report
2020 Sustainability Report
published 2021/08/02

Strong roots make us crisis-proof

September 2, 2020 – Is sustainability only an issue when times are good? Is it destined to fade into the background in crisis situations such as the current coronavirus pandemic? Or is it possible that just the opposite is true? We at VAUDE have been dealing with these questions and now, six months into the coronavirus pandemic, we've come to some interim conclusions.

Sustainable business makes us crisis-proof. A plea for people and the planet. And a model for the future.

Is sustainability only an issue when times are good? Is it destined to fade into the background in crisis situations such as the current coronavirus pandemic? Or is it possible that just the opposite is true? We at VAUDE have been dealing with these questions and now, six months into the coronavirus pandemic, we've come to some interim conclusions. We have found that our corporate culture, which is based on mutual trust, and our firmly established, sustainable corporate alignment have helped us to steer through these stormy times with flexibility and using our own resources. Issues such as cooperative partnerships, self-efficacy and mobile work as well as responsible conduct for people and the planet have made us crisis-proof.

Bild Our Planet Our Future

Sustainability builds on long-term, solid partnerships. And true partnerships are easily recognizable in times of crisis. Sustainability means working together to find solutions in difficult times. This creates stability.

When our retailers had to close their stores, we made a conscious decision to not cancel any product orders; instead, we entered into dialog with our partners and suppliers in order to jointly withstand the slump in sales. For example, we collectively redefined delivery dates and payment targets, always under the premise that both sides would be able to accept the changes. Similarly, we also made accommodations for our specialist retailers. We actively participated in and signed on to the recommendations for responsible purchasing practices of the Alliance for Sustainable Textiles. As a rule, VAUDE is highly committed to responsibility and fairness in its supply chains and relies on long-term partnerships with its producers and suppliers.

»Sustainability is a team sport. The crisis has revealed how fatal short-term corporate practices are and what threat they pose to a company's existence. Partnerships based on cooperation and fair conduct, on the other hand, provide the flexibility needed in times of crisis and at the same time create stability.«

Jan Lorch, Managing Director Sales and CSR

The corona crisis calls for corporate agility. Since sustainable management means frequently taking steps into the unknown, companies that operate sustainably are used to mastering unfamiliar challenges on their own.

As a company, embarking on a sustainable path means breaking new ground in a wide range of activities. This is simply because there is often a lack of regulation of environmental and social factors in our current economic system, or because environmentally friendly alternatives do not yet exist. So we are used to accepting challenges, working toward achieving solutions and tackling seemingly insurmountable obstacles and conflicting goals, such as eliminating the use of PFC, on our own initiative and mastering these challenges independently. The coronavirus pandemic, of course, has created a major new challenge for us. But after the initial shock of the lockdown and the closure of retail stores, we went into solution-finding mode with speed and agility and began taking action.

As early as mid-March, we set up a Corona Task Force made up of management and our employee representatives that met regularly, developed various crisis scenarios and informed all employees about current news and our approach to the crisis via a daily video blog created specifically for this purpose. This enabled us to consistently and successfully maintain our ongoing operations. As a reaction to the changes in purchasing and recreational behavior caused by store closures and lockdown guidelines, we quickly implemented an online platform to support local retailers and launched a "Travel in Germany" campaign. Thus, despite the initial suspension of sales, we were able to generate business again quite swiftly.

The coronavirus has led to existential insecurity for many people. In sustainably managed companies, the feeling of teamwork is remarkably strong and responsibility is shared. This provides security and support.

We are working hard to cultivate a company philosophy that relies on the strength of our community. We bear responsibility as a team and important decisions are made together. This helped us to act calmly and swiftly in the early stages of the crisis. With the help of our Corona Task Force and its daily video blog, we were able to get all employees on board and stay on course despite the uncertainties. In addition, we will continue to concentrate on self-efficacy in our collaborative efforts; we are used to working very flexibly and independently in teams. This has given rise to a wide range of creative ideas as to how to continue working despite completely unexpected and constantly changing conditions.

VAUDE Videoblog

We implemented hygiene guidelines and social distancing rules quickly and pragmatically, tasks within teams were redistributed and new avenues and structures of cooperation were found with a focus on mutual understanding and openness for rapid improvisation. Employees who could no longer work in the logistics department due to suspended deliveries were, at times, employed in our backpack and pannier factory. We only had to make use of a reduced hours/income replacement program in April with about 30 % of the workforce. To date we have not needed to rely on state aid. "When responsibility is shared, when everyone pulls together and looks ahead, this feeling of teamwork supports our community and provides security," said Antje von Dewitz.

Economic activity during the coronavirus pandemic expedites digital business. A trustworthy corporate culture is not only the basis for sustainable business, but also the motor that drives a digitalized work environment.

Our corporate culture is based on mutual trust. This means that we have a positive view of humanity and are convinced that our employees are happy to be actively involved in their work. We have long since experienced that this has a positive effect on employee motivation and satisfaction. We also promote a good work-life balance and have already been offering mobile work opportunities for years. We had therefore established both the technical prerequisites with cloud-based solutions for collaboration and a living culture of trust, so that at the beginning of the corona crisis we were able to send over 200 employees to their home offices in the shortest possible time without any loss of efficiency.


We quickly learned how to switch to video conferencing instead of face-to-face meetings and made increased use of visual and virtual formats, such as for product presentations during sales calls. We also support new models for the networking of digital and traditional sales channels, such as delivery and collection services from local retailers, in order to compensate for declines in sales caused by stores that needed to close. We successfully held our annual sales meeting with approximately 200 participants from all over the world as a solely online event.

Digiatales Salesmeeting
Of course, digital formats cannot fully replace real-world social contact, and we too are noticing that many employees want to come back to the office to work in direct contact with their teams. Our sales representatives will continue to visit our customers on site. "We are increasingly seeing the future in mixed forms of digital and traditional concepts, which will continue to increase our flexibility in very diverse sectors. This will promote an even better work-life balance, will often help to save time and will also be climate-friendly," said Antje von Dewitz.

The restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic have brought to light shortcomings in our current economic system and consumer behavior. Sustainable products meet the needs for an eco-aware lifestyle and conscious consumption.

Conscious consumption instead of "higher, faster, further" has long been VAUDE's motto. We produce high-quality and durable products that are manufactured under ecological and fair working conditions. We knowingly accept the additional expenses that this entails. Our business model is not designed for generating mass profits with rapidly changing collections. Instead, we plan the purchase and merchandise management of our products very carefully and have many products in our collections that will be sold for years. This means that we have to sell far fewer products at reduced prices compared to other companies in the textile industry. This helps us to meet the additional costs of sustainability and is an economically successful strategy. We have observed that the pandemic has put a magnifying glass on many long-standing, man-made global problems. Like the climate crisis, it is helping to make many people more aware that their behavior and their purchasing decisions make a direct impact. They want change and want to consume with a clear conscience. We already offer solutions for overcoming major global challenges such as the wasting of resources, climate change or the exploitation of people in manufacturing processes by voluntarily managing our business with consideration for people and the planet.

A study by Utopia on the relevance of sustainability as a result of the corona crisis sums it up this way: "For companies, the coronavirus presents both an obligation and an opportunity. Since the coronavirus emerged, nearly 50 % of those surveyed say that they want to engage in sustainable consumption more consistently than before, and over 70 % say that after the corona crisis is over, they want to support manufacturers who acted responsibly during the crisis.

»We stand by our belief that our sustainable economic model is the only way forward.«

Antje von Dewitz, CEO VAUDE

Consistently sustainable business practices makes us crisis-proof and are the only sensible way forward. The positive lessons learned from the crisis may point the way toward a more sustainable economic framework.

In the face of many major global challenges, the corona crisis will surely not remain the only one that will affect the way we do business and live together. Therefore, we advocate learning from the crisis. Sustainability and successful business management are not mutually exclusive ideas. In fact, the opposite is true. Sustainable management means future-oriented management. We should demand and promote this, not only in view of sustaining a planet on which we want to live, but also in maintaining a healthy economy. This is why we at VAUDE are committed to ensuring that economic stimulation is not seen separately from efforts to protect the climate, for example. Measures already underway, such as the EU's Green Deal on climate change, must be pursued vigorously and funding to support the economy should be linked to sustainable targets.  

This exceptional situation has shown that changes in the areas of digitization, mobile work or changes in consumer and mobility behavior, which had previously seemed impossible or were only slowly progressing, could suddenly become reality. We see this as a great opportunity for a sustainable and stable economy.  

»We are convinced that consistently sustainable business practices make us crisis-proof and are the only sensible way to move forward.«

Antje von Dewitz, CEO VAUDE
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