GERMANY. Gebr. Heinemann has underlined its commitment to strong and ethical corporate governance by publishing its second UN Global Compact Communication on Progress (click here to access the report).

The German travel retailer and wholesaler has been a member of the United Nations Global Compact – the world’s largest and most important initiative for responsible corporate governance – since 2018.

By participating, the global family-owned company aims to demonstrate its commitment to human rights, fair labour conditions, environmental protection and anti-corruption. Gebr. Heinemann is now reporting on the measures and initiatives implemented in these areas.

“Corporate Responsibility has been at the core of our DNA and our daily work since the founding of our family business over 140 years ago,” said CEO Max Heinemann, representative of the fifth generation of owners. “The requirements have changed over the generations and are even more demanding today within our worldwide duty free business. Especially in times of a global and market changing crisis, the UN principles and goals serve as a very helpful compass to us.”

The travel industry and with it all parts of its value chain are experiencing one of the most difficult years in history, the company noted, saying, “The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken and will continue to shake the foundations of the industry. These effects did not spare Gebr. Heinemann. Nevertheless, the management is convinced that responsibility in times of crisis and, above all, shaping a sustainable future for the company are more important than ever.”

This means for Gebr. Heinemann that Corporate Responsibility “is not a project, it is a commitment”, the company commented.

“With our communication on progress we would like to set a mark on the importance and momentousness of acting responsibly – even in times of crisis. This also means to keep asking critical questions to do what is right,” said Gebr. Heinemann Director Corporate Affairs Dr. Jennifer Cords.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an extreme learning curve for all. The exchange with our business partners and suppliers as well as the commitment of our colleagues around the globe have encouraged us to continue our journey towards more responsibility in the travel industry within the scope of our current possibilities.”

Examples of progress in the reporting period August 2019-August 2020

• Responsible cosmetic products (UN Sustainable Development Goal 12): In the first half of the reporting period, before the outbreak of the pandemic, Gebr. Heinemann introduced ‘Clean Beauty’ products at additional sites. These high-quality products are good for both the body and the environment, thus meeting the customer demand for conscious, sustainable consumption.


• Stakeholder Dialogue (UN Sustainable Development Goal 17): In September 2019, Gebr. Heinemann made Corporate Responsibility a business priority at the annual Strategy Day and started a dialogue with suppliers from different industries throughout a Sustainability Panel. The travel retailer continued this exchange on a European stage at the ETRC Business Forum in February 2020.

Gebr. Heinemann Director Corporate Affairs Dr. Jennifer Cords (above) leads a panel discussion with some of the company’s most prominent partners at the annual Strategy Day in Hamburg


• Human Rights Risk Analysis (UN Sustainable Development Goal 8): Participating companies of the UN Global Compact also ensure that they are not complicit in human rights violations. In 2019, Gebr. Heinemann carried out an extensive human rights risk analysis of around 24,000 products in the Heinemann Australia range. On the one hand, the findings of this analysis will be published in a Modern Slavery Statement and are an occasion for dialogue with suppliers who manufacture in countries with critical production conditions. On the other hand, they serve as a blueprint for the gradual expansion to other Heinemann sites.
• Avoiding food destruction (UN Sustainable Development Goal 12): Even in times of crisis, Gebr. Heinemann is particularly concerned with the sustainable handling of goods and food. Therefore, in April 2020, charitable institutions received Easter goods that were already delivered to closed airport shops throughout Europe. In Singapore, the team from Heinemann Asia Pacific donated confectionery that could not be delivered to retail shops and distribution customers to food banks, migrant worker charities and frontline healthcare workers.

Max Heinemann: “For us, the art of entrepreneurial action is to weigh up the ecological and social challenges and opportunities carefully in every economic decision”

At the same time, however, measures planned for 2020 had to be postponed temporarily due to the pandemic. This applies to the publication of the already completed Code of Ethics, which is to be applied both to the Heinemann Group and to suppliers and business partners. It requires time and the necessary attention to anchor the Code of Ethics with all stakeholders in a seriously and sustainably way.

“For us, the art of entrepreneurial action is to weigh up the ecological and social challenges and opportunities carefully in every economic decision,” said Max Heinemann.

“Our aim is to remain an innovation driver in the travel retail market in the future. We are not alone on this journey. We want to encourage a sustainable value chain in which we work closely with our suppliers and partners, jointly defining and fulfilling high environmental and social standards and working to ensure that these are adhered to in the market.

“As a retailer, we are at the centre of the supply chain and have a huge sphere of influence, from the suppliers of the products, through logistics and duty free shops, to the traveller – perfect for influencing others and being inspired by those who are already ahead of us in this area.”