Nearly 330,000 employees provide the driving energy for REWE Group's activities. They know their customers and suppliers. They shape their job every day. And they are always there – in stores, warehouses and administrative offices. As a result, employees serve as key sustainability ambassadors: They uncover improvement potential and determine which measures will work best in which place. By providing information, REWE Group intends to sharpen the focus of its employees and tap their knowledge as a way of introducing them and customers to the world of opportunities for more sustainable trade.
Encouraging more sustainable consumption is a critically important strategic objective of REWE Group – and its employees are the key contacts for customers in this process. To bolster this effort, the concept of sustainability ambassador was developed. As a first step in the programme, volunteers were recruited for every REWE store in REWE Region West. The aim is for the ambassadors to communicate sustainability issues in stores, develop their own ideas and excite customers and other employees for the topic. As part of their jobs, ambassadors answer questions raised by customers and colleagues and can demonstrate in the stores themselves the sensible and positive aspects of sustainability.
"I think you have to do something today for the good of tomorrow," says René Keuchen of the store on Tussmann Street in Düsseldorf-Pempelfort. "At REWE, I feel I will be able to really grow. That's why I became a sustainability ambassador." He joined 350 other store and administrative employees on 5 November 2014 at the first major conference on the issue. During the conference, group members attended workshops and discussions held in a world café format and defined just what their jobs involved.
The second major conference was held on 17 and 18 June 2015. At this conference, speakers talked about such issues as regionality, PRO PLANET and the partnership with the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union. During various workshops, participants also practised ways to confidently deal with critical customer questions.
the Contact Partner in the Store
One issue that the conference participants considered to be particularly important was environmentally conscious steps to be taken in the store itself, things like the reduced use of electricity, packaging and paper as well as recycling. As part of such efforts, ambassadors are assigned the task of identifying problems and developing more sustainable work processes. In addition, the ambassadors plan to expand their knowledge base about such topics as sustainability seals and to proactively share this knowledge with colleagues and customers. To do their jobs, they will need additional freedom. Above all, this means that they will need time to provide information, conduct campaigns and engage in regular discussions.
The chief responsibilities of the sustainability ambassadors involve planning and conducting sustainability projects like Sustainability Weeks. But the work of sustainability ambassadors extends beyond centrally managed campaigns: "Every sustainability ambassador is his or her own little think tank," René Keuchen says. For this reason, REWE Group encourages employees to initiate their own projects. For instance, Keuchen has made boxes for his store in which he collects customers' used eyeglasses. The spectacles are then sent to Africa with the help of a relief organisation.
Biking for the Climate: 300,000 New Trees
During the Sustainability Weeks 2013 and 2014, REWE Group did its part for environmental protection by organising the participatory event "Zu REWE Radeln" (Biking to REWE): On 8 June 2013 and 9 August 2014, customers were encouraged to ride their bikes to a participating REWE or nahkauf store. People who abandoned their cars for the trip did not just do something good for their health – REWE Group also planted a tree in recognition of every rider in a partnership with the Plant-for-the-Planet organisation. All employees of REWE Group's head offices were also encouraged to ride their bikes to work. More than 300 of them responded to the appeal and biked to their Cologne offices to help improve the environment. As a result, a donation of 300,000 trees was created. These trees were then planted in such countries as Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Social Projects for Trainees:
Working on Behalf of Children and Animals
Each year, REWE Group trainees in the Cologne head offices work in social and environmental projects. In 2014, 25 trainees of REWE Group head offices supported groups that assist children and young people as well as animal shelters in Cologne. They were able to count on the support provided by colleagues in a large number of business areas who offered advice and materials for the projects being developed.
One of the six groups collected 17 boxes of toys from REWE Group employees for the children's clinic Kinderkrankenhaus Amsterdamer Strasse. Each patient could then pick out his or her own toy. "Working with the children, some of whom were seriously ill, was a new experience for all of us. Thoughts about it remained with us for a long time," says REWE trainee Oliver Funk, a member of the children's clinic group.
REWE Group Star:
Creative Teams for Sustainable Projects
The REWE Group Star competition gives trainees and young employees throughout the group an opportunity to be creative. Working in teams, they independently plan campaigns that cover one of the company's four pillars of sustainability ("Green Products", "Employees", "Energy, Climate and the Environment" and "Social Involvement"). In 2014, 45 registered groups were assigned the task of developing a sustainability project with no budget and many good ideas.
The "trainee" category was won by the Green Thumbs Up team from Lower Bavaria. The trainees at the PENNY store in Tann shared their knowledge about recycling and wasted food with children in an age-appropriate manner. Afterwards, they auctioned the pictures the children had painted about environmental protection and used the proceeds to buy small trees that they planted with the children's assistance. First place in the young employees category went to the "REWE's Beste Wahl" team. With a raffle and a fund-raising drive, they not only gained the support of colleagues and customers for the German Bone Marrow Donor Centre, but also provided a donation of 1,000 euros to the charitable organisation.
Learning Online, Experiencing Live:
REWE Makes Sustainability Real
Sustainability is not just a key issue for store ambassadors and young employees. For this reason, REWE Group promotes social and environmental thinking by its employees on many levels. In 2012 and 2013, about 70,000 employees took part in the e-learning initiative on sustainability (see Employee Growth)
In 2014, REWE Region West held its very own trade fair to raise employees' awareness level about the issue. "Our Green Days turned sustainability into something you could touch and experience," says Joachim Ax, Regional Director of REWE West and the "inventor" of the Green Days trade fair. He and his team attracted more than 80 exhibitors on about 8,000 m2 of display space to bring environmental protection and fairness to life. At many exciting booths and activities, visitors learned how they could help climate protection and even save some money in the process.
an Exchange for Social and Environment Involvement
People interested in doing something for society or the environment by themselves or with colleagues can turn to the exchange for social and environmental involvement in the employee portal. It is a programme REWE Group has created for Cologne-based employees who want to volunteer in their leisure time. The involvement opportunities listed on the exchange are provided by organisations and entities in Cologne and the surrounding region. They involve a large variety of areas. These jobs include supporting or assisting people, doing manual jobs and helping charitable organisations and entities. This work may involve distributing food to the needy, renovating a charity's facilities, assisting with theatre productions, going on an outing with refugees or seniors, beautifying gardens or constructing an enclosure for animals in need. The opportunities listed on the exchange are designed for both individuals and teams. They may also be one-time events or long-range activities.
REWE Group continuously expands its internal communication work to ensure the more than 300,000-member team of the trade and tourism company hears about colleagues' activities and becomes inspired enough to do something themselves. As part of this effort, the employee magazine "one" contains stories each month about the sustainability projects and participatory activities for employees in the "Responsibility" section. A weekly newsletter also provides the latest news, background information and tips about increasing sustainable consumption habits and lifestyles. As food for thought in thousands of small think tanks.