As a protagonist in the globalised economy and a beneficiary of the associated division of labour, Tchibo shares responsibility for resolving challenges that arise from our business activities. We believe that solutions to such global challenges are often better developed in cooperation with various societal protagonists. A close, ongoing exchange with our stakeholders within and outside the company is therefore very important to us. We want to know our stakeholders’ expectations and views, incorporate their input into thefurther development of sustainable business processes, and work together on leading-edge solutions for ecological, social and societal challenges. So the dialogue with our stakeholders is also a stimulus for important processes of innovation – both in the company and at societal level. At the same time, the exchange with our stakeholders is important for identifying opportunities and risks for Tchibo’s business at an early stage, and thus to enable proactive action.
The exchange with our stakeholders is one of dialogue between partners and appropriate activities to involve them. Our core objective of becoming a 100% sustainable business represents continuity in an ongoing development process that takes into account key stakeholders and their expectations, as well as regularly updates the priorities and key topics and measures. Our goal in involving stakeholders is not to meet all their expectations as quickly as possible, but rather to look into these expectations and set priorities. It is also clear that not all of the expectations placed in us can feasibly be met.
Systematic stakeholder management
Involving stakeholders, identifying relevant topics together, and responding with appropriate measures – this approach corresponds to the principles of accountability inclusivity, materiality and responsiveness codified in the AccountAbility standard 1000 (AA1000). Since 2012, our stakeholder management has been based on a management system that was developed and rolled-out in accordance with the AA1000 standard.
Relevant stakeholders are involved in formats that are chosen to precisely match the topic and occasion. They include surveys, dialogue events, or cooperation in initiatives and alliances such as the Global Coffee Platform (GCP) and the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles in Germany.
We have mapped the relevance of the topics for stakeholders and for Tchibo in a materiality matrix. The material topics are derived from this matrix, and are updated and adjusted as needed in the course of our ongoing stakeholder involvement.
To analyse the material fields of action, we have conducted a comprehensive stakeholder survey in 2012. We identified more than 1,200 stakeholders and grouped them into customers, employees, suppliers and business partners, non-governmental organisations, government agencies, trade unions, consumer protection organisations, science & academe, banks and insurance companies, and the media. We invited 430 of the 1,200 stakeholders to complete an anonymous online survey. The participating institutions were selected based on their relevance as Tchibo stakeholders and the extent to which they influence the company. It was important to us that we select stakeholders with whom we can make a difference. We surveyed the relevance they ascribed to 34 topics at Tchibo, and how far they felt Tchibo had come on these topics, for seven fields of action. They also had the option of adding their own expectations and suggestions.
We followed this up with qualitative telephone interviews with external sustainability experts on individual fields of action, and asked employees from various disciplines to assess their relevance. On this basis, we prioritised the topics for our sustainability management. Besides their relevance, we also looked at how, for example, topics can be influenced by critical groups. From these two aspects, we derived a value for ‘stakeholder attention’. The focus topics arrived at in this way have guided us ever since in developing specific targets and measures on our way to becoming a 100% sustainable business.
The key topics from the materiality matrix are incorporated in the company’s strategy development. They are put into action and evaluated, e.g. in the area of environmental protection or responsible business practices, always involving the relevant stakeholders depending on the topic or occasion.
Alongside stakeholder management, issues management is of great importance in Tchibo’s materiality process. It serves as a ‘topic radar’ to recognise, analyse and evaluate social trends and current developments at an early stage. This proactive issues management process enables us to identify potential risks and minimise them through preventive measures. On the other hand, we can derive opportunities for our sustainable focus and Tchibo’s brand positioning from topical issues. In this respect, issues management has a direct influence on strategy planning and the prioritisation of topics. As a result, it also provides important support in the materiality process.
Asked for by stakeholders: reviewing action areas
As part of our sustainability management, in 2006 we determined the topics and fields of action that – from our perspective and based on our experience – are key to our path of sustainability. To review which fields of action are most important to the various stakeholders, and how they rate Tchibo’s state of development [in those areas], we carried out an extensive stakeholder survey in 2012. The findings show that stakeholders confirmed the relevance of the fields of action we had defined in 2006. They, too, see the coffee and consumer goods value chains as the most important action areas. Key topics here include the socially responsible and resource-conserving production of consumer goods, and the improvement of the economic and social situation of the coffee growers, who are usually small farmers.
Major political and social developments in 2016 prove that our focus topics remain very relevant, or have become even more so. All in all, in 2016 we note that the conflict area between legal obligation and voluntary commitment of business is receiving a lot more attention in the public discourse – driven by environmental and social problems that are still nowhere near resolved and becoming increasingly urgent, especially in the global production and trade structures. This was the reason for making this area of conflict the topic of our stakeholder workshop in November 2016. “Fair competition requires (at least European) rules” seems to be acceptable as the lowest common denominator of all societal stakeholders.