Sustainability Talk #8

Frederike Hackbart, Otto Group


Sustainability has been part of the Otto Group's corporate programme for decades. Sustainability Manager Frederike Hackbart is responsible for making the complex topic accessible to employees. Her credo: fun and relevance.

Ms Hackbart, your job description at the Otto Group is "Employee Empowerment". How do you empower a workforce in terms of sustainability?
By making sustainability tangible for employees and making them realise what contribution they can personally make - in their private and professional lives.

This means that you are responsible for a task that many companies are still finding very difficult at the moment: to get their employees excited about sustainability issues in the long term.
For us, employee empowerment is part of our sustainability strategy. After all, our employees are the ones who are close to our customers and processes. We therefore asked ourselves: How do we create transparency on the big topic of sustainability? And how do we encourage our colleagues to get on board? Our long-term goal is to integrate sustainability into the daily lives of all employees. But that is a longer process.

"We ensure that the complexity that sustainability brings with it is reduced and made tangible."

To be more specific, how do you approach this task?
It starts with joint waste collection campaigns and goes all the way to our Sustainability Days, which we organised on the Otto Campus in the summer. The special thing: The two-day event with market stalls, live events and panel discussions was organised by colleagues for colleagues. The experts responsible for our circular strategy, for example, planned and designed the market stand on the topic of circular economy. The Corporate Responsibility team provided the stage. On the second day, our partners like traceless, Das Geld hängt an den Bäumen, atmosfair, toMOORow or Cotton made in Africa presented their work. All this was very well received.

What other channels do you use to communicate sustainability information at the Otto Group?
We continuously use different media and channels. Already during onboarding, we familiarise every new employee with our sustainability goals. We have added our own videos on sustainability topics to our digital learning platform TechUcation. We have also launched the Otto Group's 'Good Community', where colleagues from all divisions across the group can get involved and find out about sustainability issues. Every week we post two to three articles on the network about activities from the Otto Group or general topics such as Earth Overshoot Day and its significance.

And how is the feedback from your colleagues?
At Otto Group Holding, for example, about 25 percent of employees have started the sustainability learning path. A good 1,200 colleagues registered for the two sustainability days. We received very positive feedback from all those who participated.

What is your advice for reaching as many as possible?
I think it is very helpful that our sustainability goals are strongly supported by the management on the one hand, but that it is largely up to us employees how we want to achieve them. In terms of communication, on the other hand, we think very carefully about how often, in what detail and through which channels we communicate which issues to whom. One reason for this is to avoid swamping our colleagues.

What does that mean in concrete terms?
A 30-page report on organic cotton, for example, may be very informative, but probably few people will read it, because for employees sustainability is something that comes on top of their normal work. My rule of thumb is therefore: sustainability communication must be fun and establish as personal a connection as possible with the colleagues. What does this mean for my work? What does a circular collection look like in concrete terms, for example? How does it change our business, how does it change our customer relations? The more tangible, experienceable and concrete we can communicate such topics, the better they will be received.

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Harald Willenbrock

Head of Concept & Content