Heinemann: Sustainability now discussed as a trend

By Andrew Pentol |

The recent Gebr. Heinemann annual press conference was hosted virtually at the company’s Hamburg headquarters.

German family-owned company Gebr. Heinemann has intensified its focus on Corporate Responsibility amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a section entitled ‘Responsible Travel Retail’ within the company’s 2020 Annual Business & Corporate Responsibility Report, the company emphasises its belief in responsible management and its respect for people and the environment.

“Sustainable products and services will continue to be drivers of economic growth in travel retail,” the company said in the report.

Responding to a question from TRBusiness on the company’s commitment to Corporate Responsibility and protecting the environment during yesterday’s online press conference, Max Heinemann, CEO, Gebr. Heinemann said: “I’m pretty sure we could talk for hours about sustainability, but on a very serious note there is one deeply embedded cultural element which links a family business and its 142-year history. This is the ability to think sustainably.

“To summarise, this means we understand what long-term means and what elements should or will play a role moving forward.”


Over the past few years, Gebr. Heinemann has made significant progress on its Corporate Responsibility journey. Max Heinemann recalled: “In 2018, we became a member of the UN Global Compact, which means we look at the initiative’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The Gebr. Heinemann Code of Ethics was introduced in January 2021 and reflects the company’s position to meet responsibilities in areas such as human rights, environmental protection and anti-corruption.

“We defined the goals and worked through them even during the crisis last year. We will set key performance indicators in each and every part of our global organisation which relate to how we can reach such goals. These key performance indicators will also be communicated.”

He added: “At the beginning of this year, we also launched a new Code of Ethics which touches on sustainability and elements such as environmental protection, fair competition, secure supply chains and animal welfare.”

Guided by the 10 principles of the United Nations Global Compact, the Code of Ethics adds the message of sustainable and responsible action to the company’s corporate philosophy.

Providing further information on the thinking behind the creation of the Code of Ethics, Max Heinemann explained in the 2020 Annual Business & Corporate Responsibility Report: “The Code reflects the Heinemann way of working together, giving orientation of how we conduct our business and thus protects and promotes global travel retail.

“In an increasingly complex travel retail world with its diverse customers, partners and colleagues in all cultural circles, ethical behaviour is a basic requirement. Our compliance with globally recognised ecological, legal and social standards and beyond is officially underlined by the Gebr. Heinemann Code of Ethics.

“By preventing misunderstandings and mis-conduct between partners and employees it directly strengthens our business.”

The Code of Ethics is guided by the 10 principles of the United Nations Global Compact.

Svenja Fischer, Senior Corporate Responsibility Manager added in the report that formulating one’s desired ethical conduct is becoming imperative to ensuring successful business relations.

“Following the ‘think global, act local approach’ we are already working on individual solutions based on the Code of Ethics standard which is set where applicable.”


On the importance of Corporate Responsibility and sustainability for Gebr. Heinemann and the industry as a while, Max Heinemann told members of the trade media. “It’s a huge topic and should be a huge topic in each and every organisation regardless of the industry. I cannot say we are lazy on this and are focusing on it with airlines, airports and suppliers.

Max Heinemann, CEO, Gebr. Heinemann says the company has always had the ability to think sustainably and that doing so is part of its culture.

“The influence of a product category or packaging and so on and so forth that will be more catered to the topic of sustainability will always be part of our key performance indicators.”

Dr Dirk Schneider, Chief Commercial Officer, Gebr. Heinemann offered his own thoughts on Corporate Responsibility and sustainability at the online press conference. He said: “Sustainability is not discussed like it was in the past. It is now discussed as a trend. There is a clear expectation [in terms of sustainability] from a customer point of view.

“We want to make a very concrete impact and have already started. At our large warehouse in Hamburg, for example, we have switched to green energy and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 60%.”

Dr Dirk Schneider, Chief Commercial Officer, Gebr. Heinemann says there is a clear expectation from a customer point of view in terms of sustainability.

Aside sustainability, Gebr. Heinemann is looking to make inroads as far as inflight retail is concerned. The sector may have been hit hard by Covid-19, but this has not stopped the company from exploring the merits of concepts such as home-delivery.

Raoul Spanger, Chief Operating Officer, Gebr. Heinemann commented: “We have started examining the home-delivery concept and are trying to determine if it has potential for the airlines.”

Spanger did not discuss the company’s exact plans for inflight and home-delivery during the press conference, but John Baumgartner, Director Sales, Inflight & Catering, Gebr. Heinemann provides further information in the Business & Corporate Responsibility Report.

Raoul Spanger, Chief Operating Officer, Gebr. Heinemann revealed that the company is exploring the potential of home delivery for airlines, but revealed few other details on its plans for the sector.

Baumgartner says the company has used the pause period due to Covid-19 to design a new home delivery project with two of its concessionaire and airline customers.

“We designed a pragmatic solution where the airline or retailer onboard the airline will act as the front-end interface to the customer while we will fulfil the order.”


Should the project come to fruition, the airline or concessionaire will assign an assortment from Gebr. Heinemann to its own web-shop. From there, the passenger orders before or during the flight and flight confirmation is checked.

John Baumgartner, Director Sales, Inflight & Catering, Gebr. Heinemann.

All orders are digitally transferred from the web-shop to Gebr. Heinemann and the logistics team then picks, packs and ships items to travellers’ homes.

This way, the company gains direct access to passengers and can undertake target marketing. Initially, Gebr. Heinemann will only ship to addresses in Germany but is looking to do so to homes across Europe.

Baumgartner added: “Selling through an airline or concessionaire’s web-shop enables us to offer a much bigger assortment than in a catalogue — and there are no production or printing costs.”

Assessing the current pitfalls of the inflight retail sector, he describes it as being rather static and not profitable enough. This is due to logistical challenges and a limited shopping experience.

“How can we still offer brands and products to passengers, but be efficient at the same time? The home delivery project is one answer that goes in this direction.

“Many already see airlines as a key partner in driving travel retail sales in the future. Airlines and travel agents have the most valuable information at their disposal — the data of the passenger’s journey.

“When you get access to such data, you can become a more proactive retailer. I believe this is a critical parameter which we as Gebr. Heinemann must take the lead in to develop our airline and total travel retail business in the future.”


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