Partner portrait: VAUDE – sustainability as a company philosophy and a lifelong dream

VAUDE from Tettnang is one of Europe’s leading suppliers of outdoor and cycle clothing, equipment and shoes. VAUDE can also claim to take a leading role in terms of sustainability, an area in which the company is extremely active.

For the company’s manager Antje von Dewitz, sustainability is a lifelong dream and a firm element of the company philosophy. Image source: VAUDE

One element of VAUDE's sustainability strategy is its collaboration with myclimate. Based on comprehensive calculations, the Tettnang site, at which part of the range is also produced, is climate-neutral with myclimate.

Managing Director Antje von Dewitz, daughter of the company's founder Albrecht von Dewitz, took some time out to answer questions from myclimate.

Ms von Dewitz, describe VAUDE in one sentence!

We are a sustainably innovative mountain and cycle sports brand for all those who like being active in the great outdoors, enjoy nature conscientiously, and want to preserve it for future generations.

What form do your efforts for sustainability take and how far do they go?

I could outline a number of individual measures to you, but it's probably easier to break them down into two large areas. Sustainability is a fundamental element of our day-to-day work and trading. Each employee, in his or her individual area of activity, pursues the objective of doing business as sustainably as possible. Whether it's with recycled paper or reusable trade stands, we always look for the most sustainable solution. This is also reflected in our products and production philosophy: from products made of environmentally friendly materials, to processing that spares resources, through to "fair valuation" and dealing with products at the end of their lifecycle. Trading in balance between people and nature ultimately also means fair treatment of employees, an open company culture and encouraging a work-life balance.

A proportion of production in Germany and a strong focus on sustainability - in such a hard-fought market as the outdoor industry, does that not constitute a competitive disadvantage?

At first glance, or from a purely commercial perspective, you might think so. Since, for example, we deliberately chose not to use PVC in the production of our panniers, our production/material costs here are comparatively higher. This is something we cannot, and indeed do not want to, pass on to our customers. But that's just one side of the picture. At the same time, this focus is a true innovation-driver, which helps us to continually improve our products and processes and to design our company to be fit for the future. By remaining transparent and having our efforts certified externally too, we are strengthening our brand and differentiating ourselves from many of our competitors. Values like trust and sympathy among customers are hard to measure and impossible to quantify.

Is this path solely a decision by the management or do you involve your employees too?

Sustainability is anchored in our company objectives and is therefore broken down as a guideline in the individual business areas. We stand for values-oriented working and a corresponding corporate culture. This is genuine and represents a great incentive for our employees. Thanks not least to a lot of information, further training and constant integration, our employees have fully embraced the theme of sustainability. All this has helped to build up momentum, which clearly fosters innovative and satisfying work.

Why did you choose myclimate as a climate protection partner?

We investigated quite a few providers, but we like myclimate's approach best. The method is credible and the focus on the socio-cultural circumstances surrounding the projects is convincing. Thanks to myclimate's projects, we were able to simultaneously create added value precisely where we also carry out production. All these factors were behind our decision.

VAUDE is an owner-managed company. What does sustainability and climate production mean to you personally?

For me, it is something very close to my heart and a lifelong dream. Even as a child, I felt a strong desire to change something for the better. During my studies, I therefore looked towards the NGO sphere as a possible route to go down. At some point, though, I realised that I could have most impact in this direction within our own company. That is what has driven me every day since.

VAUDE has recently published its latest sustainability report. As part of this, Vaude has also used a film to document the myclimate climate protection project "Cooking with corncobs instead of coal", through which VAUDE is compensation the emissions of its Tettnang site.

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