‘Over to you’: Gebr. Heinemann’s Svenja Fischer

By Luke Barras-hill |

Svenja Fischer, Team Leader Corporate Responsibility at Gebr. Heinemann, will feature as a webinar panellist at the second annual Travel Retail Sustainability Week (19-22 April).

In the first of several web exclusive adjuncts to the forthcoming Sustainability issue, set to release ahead of the second annual Travel Retail Sustainability Week (19-22 April), TRBusiness speaks to Gebr. Heinemann’s Svenja Fischer.

The Team Leader for Corporate Responsibility says in an ‘Over to you’ Q&A that Heinemann’s management team is committed to advancing a sustainable business strategy.

She highlights current industry challenges around a lack of uniform data sharing and differing perceptions of sustainability at brand, country and traveller level. Interpretations of environmental and social standards and multifarious legal frameworks also colour the picture.

However, through an aligned approach Fischer argues that stakeholders can succeed collectively in responding to a new demand ecosystem, one centred around the sustainable and responsible product and service choices of travellers that are reflective of their values. 

How important is sustainability to your business?

We at Gebr. Heinemann believe it’s time for people and businesses to make sustainability the absolute priority. We are convinced that our industry can be commercially successful at the same time as making a social and ecological contribution. At Gebr. Heinemann, corporate responsibility is an integral part of our corporate strategy. The entire management team is dedicated to moving towards a sustainable business strategy.

To make a global statement, Gebr. Heinemann joined the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) in 2018, committing to make its ten principles on human rights, labour standards, the environment and corruption prevention a core part of all operations. The ten principles serve as important points of reference for Gebr. Heinemann worldwide. This also means constantly asking ourselves new, critical questions in an effort to do the right thing.

In which areas would you like to improve and are there any obstacles to your progress?

In addition to the UNGC’s ten principles, our company has set its own Gebr. Heinemann ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ and will develop ambitious measures to achieve them to 2030.

The Gebr. Heinemann SDGs represent the areas we want to improve: People (ensure a fair, safe and non-discriminatory working environment through global health and diversity standards); Product Portfolio (generate more than half of our sales through sustainable products and by working with responsible suppliers); Energy and Emissions (carbon-neutrality by avoiding CO2 emissions – primarily through the reduction of energy consumption at our headquarters and logistics centres); and Waste and Packaging (implementing preventive measures such as waste reduction, circular economy and recycling in every part of our value chain).

Corporate responsibility remains an integral part of Hamburg-headquartered Gebr. Heinemann’s corporate strategy.

A major challenge, among others, is the lack of uniform data and a different understanding of brands when it comes to responsible products but also waste management or carbon accounting. We need a common approach to succeed collectively.

Do you think consumers are more likely to purchase products that are sustainable?

We have learned through dialogue with our network and our Gebr. Heinemann community, as well as in surveys, that travellers want to buy products that reflect their values now more than ever – and these values also include sustainability. Sustainable and responsible products as well as services will continue to be the drivers of economic growth in travel retail, and it is essential for us to proactively evolve our offering.

Our ‘future friendly’ campaign is Gebr. Heinemann’s standard for responsible shopping. With this concept, we want to draw travellers’ attention to sustainable products from range. ‘Future friendly’ products are produced in a resource-saving way (packaging, ingredients and materials) under fair and safe working conditions and are conscientious in terms of our responsibility towards people’s health. We will continue to develop and refine these attributes even further in future.

The company’s ‘future friendly’ concept draws attention to sustainable products.

The ability to involve our stakeholders in changes of perspective and strategy has always been one of our major strengths as a business. Many of our partners are already very far along when it comes to sustainability.

This includes not only suppliers, but also landlords. Many airports are very committed to CO2-neutral airport operations, such as Hamburg Airport or Oslo Airport for example. We support those partners who are leading the way, and we want to take the others with us within our sphere of influence.

In your view, what are the main obstacles facing duty free and travel retail in becoming more sustainable’?

Our industry should collaborate stronger and partner up on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, for example goals 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). This concerns a common understanding of responsible and sustainable business, joint and standardised data collection as well as having a common stance on issues such as environmental protection or human rights and thus contribute positively to the public discourse.

The DF&TR industry has been urged to collaborate around four of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action and Partnerships for the Goals.

Another obstacle here is the fact that perceptions of sustainability vary from country to country and from traveller to traveller as do environmental and social standards and legal requirements.

This applies, for example, to certifications for fair trade, vegan products and organic standards, or even individual ingredients that are banned in some but not in all countries. In addition, products are subject to due diligence in some countries, but not in others. Furthermore, suppliers place different emphases on the sustainability of their products, for example, one focuses on the ingredients; the other on packaging. This multitude of differences and inconsistencies make it a big challenge for Travel Retailers to pursue our entrepreneurial path on a global level.

For more, watch out for the dedicated April Sustainability issue and stay close to TRBusiness for more sustainability-dedicated ‘Over to you’ content. 

To access other ‘Over to you’ columns, click the respective links below. For more information on Travel Retail Sustainability Week, click here.

In its 25th anniversary year and as part of a broadened corporate focus and commitment to ‘Helping the industry grow’, TRBusiness will host two special webinars in June concentrated on the topics of diversity and inclusion and mental health and wellbeing, with other projects in the pipeline.

Siobhán Griffin, Aer Rianta International

Leanne Nutter, Brand and Retail Director, Blackjack Promotions

Martin James, Founder, Martin James London

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys

Kate Holsgrove, Chief Commercial Officer, Perth Airport

Leanne Nutter, Head of Travel Retail, Blackjack Promotions

Diego Baeza, Global Travel Retail & Duty Free Director, Viña Concha y Toro 

Richard Gray, Chief Executive Officer, Aer Rianta International Middle East 

Olivier Dancette Founder, HiDutyFree

Dr Patrick Bohl, Chairman, CEETRA

Laurent Safar, CEO, Adaptive Channel 

Tim Jobber, International Management Consultant, JES Travel Retail

John Pearce, Head of Retail & Commercial — Terminal, Adelaide Airport Limited

Alain Maingreaud, President, TFWA Part Two

Andrew Brodie, CEO, Sunshine Coast Airport

Trevor Lee, Managing Director, TravConsult

James Prescott, Managing Director, Harding Retail

Tullia Ialongo, Business Development Partner, Wand Technology

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