RALF CREMER has declared war on the throwaway culture that prevails in our society. In his role as head of customer service, his responsibilities include product returns. He has set himself the goal of stopping electrical appliances with minor defects from ending up on the scrap heap. In his efforts, he has found valuable assistance in the form of Hephata Werkstätten, a non-profit company that employs people with disabilities. Here, the appliances are repaired so that they can be sold again as seconds. Making an active contribution to society is an important part of Ralf Cremer’s private life as well as his working life – he has been involved with the German Red Cross for years.
As a retail company, METRO GROUP depends not only on the long-term availability of food but also on that of resources such as wood, metal, crude oil and water. This is because these raw materials are used both to produce and to package the products that we sell in our stores. We see it as part of our responsibility to carefully consider – right at the beginning of the value chain – where the raw materials for products and packaging come from. Similarly, at the end of a product’s useful life, we ask ourselves whether and how its raw materials can be reused or disposed of with the minimum environmental impact.
The first approach is a waste avoidance strategy, which aims to prevent rubbish from being generated in the first place. This is done, for example, by optimising the use of resources for products and packaging and by leaving out certain components completely or replacing them with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Another approach concerns reusing resources. Rather than throwing away products and packaging which are no longer needed, we put them to good use again.
There is also commercial potential in reusing resources directly or in recycling them – our third approach. Through thermal utilisation – for instance, generating heat or electricity by incinerating waste – we can prevent this rubbish from ending up in landfill and putting a strain on the environment. We attach importance to promoting innovative production and recycling technologies and by thinking in cycles. This is because the disposal options – along with handling and storage – are determined by the nature and design of the core product and its packaging right at the beginning of the life cycle. As our products and packaging are in our customers’ possession when they reach the end of their useful life, we also see it as our responsibility to advise customers on the best way to dispose of them. This means that we raise their awareness of the need to conserve resources, inform them about ways to avoid waste, and create incentives and options for disposing of products and packaging properly. In this way, we play our part in ensuring that waste is transformed into raw materials again.