Mail order business - Otto customers want sustainability, but cheap

There is high public pressure for more sustainability, says Alexander Birken, head of the German Otto Group, which is represented in Austria with the Quelle, Otto and Universal brands. However, customers are not willing to pay more for it. With products of the same value and at the same price, however, they would resort to the more sustainable variant. The Otto Group strives for sustainability, but it is only really under control when it comes to your own range.

In their own range, for example, only sustainable cotton is used, say Birken and Harald Gutschi, bosses of the Unito Group, Otto's Austrian subsidiary. Unito’s own range is already 70 to 80 percent sustainable, and that applies to all 5.000 brands and licensed products “depending on the definition” for 10 to 20 percent, Gutschi calculated in a joint press conference on Wednesday.

Fewer returns in the domestic mail order business

The Corona year 2020 not only brought more online trading, but also noticeable changes in behavior. At the Unito Group (including Quelle, Otto and Universal), returns fell by 28 percent, and this year, too, returns are still 20 percent below the pre-crisis levels. That helped the company on the profit side, but is also a support on the way to more sustainability, said Gutschi.

Not only among customers, but also in-house, a lot has changed in the last five years, explained Birken for the Otto Group. Five years ago he would not have said that sustainability was a matter close to the heart for all employees. In the meantime, however, job applicants come expressly because the mail order company is trying to get them. Therefore, one can generate a lot more ideas from the workforce.

2020: sales plus and CO2 minus

In the previous year, Unito increased sales by 20 percent to 423 million euros, while the Otto Group achieved sales of 2020 billion euros in the 21/17,2 financial year after 15,6 percent. Their boss Birken pointed out that the whole group had reduced CO2 emissions by 2020 percent by 56 - in the area that the company itself controls.

The Unito Group reduced CO2 emissions from 2006 to 2020 by 74 percent to 860 tons, Gutschi said. Starting this year, the last mile will be delivered CO2-free or CO2-neutral (i.e. with compensation for CO2 emissions), with CO2-free transport by electric vehicles.

A special showcase program of the group is the "Cotton made in Africa" ​​project launched by Michael Otto in 2005, which enables "millions of farmers" in the Sahel region to produce for the world market without artificial irrigation and with minimal use of pesticides, says Birken. It also makes a big difference that only farmers whose children, especially daughters, go to school are allowed to participate. However, customers in Europe are not willing to pay five euros more for this, so the program had to be set up in such a way that the products are competitive on the world market, notes Birken. (apa)