Why Tchibo created the WE Program

Tchibo launched the WE Program in 2008, but its roots go back to 2005. In that year the Clean Clothes Campaign showed up on our doorstep in Hamburg, demonstrating against Tchibo because of violations of working conditions in Bangladeshi factories. These accusations were hard to swallow, because taking care of employees has always been a strong value at Tchibo.

Visiting Bangladesh in early 2006 made clear that the scope of responsibility at Tchibo needed to be extended beyond direct employees to consider the people along the supply chain as well. This was an enormous mind shift from regular practices in the industry and it had important implications.

Our experience in Bangladesh taught us that relying on audits was not enough. Progress and improvements need to be made by involving those affected. Key to developing sustainable solutions is to engage in dialogue with all parties involved. So we decided to focus on engaging with factories and workers through dialogue to improve working conditions. Using stakeholder dialogue as a means to improving human rights was an innovation in those days.

That same year we established our department for Corporate Responsibility. It was the starting point for our path towards becoming a 100% sustainable business.In the world of manufacturing, implementing human rights and raising social standards is a complex matter. Over the years, we have learned that acting responsibly in a globalized world takes patience and at times our influence is limited. Nevertheless, we believe that that the WE approach can serve as one path towards a more inclusive and fair way of working in global value chains.