The “CSR double life” of Deichmann

In my last posts I wrote about two different kinds of companies: the “CSR light” ones and the deep CSR enterprises. I also mentioned some examples of firms like “Krombacher” as well as “dm” which are representatives of those CSR categories.

However, there are also some controversial companies in discussion:
do they perform real CSR activities or not?

A well-known example with regards to this issue is Deichmann, a German shoe retail chain, headquartered in Essen. You may don´t know a lot of facts about the economic activities of that company because it rarely informs the public about its subsistence strategy.

On the one hand, the company acts as a real “CSR heavyweight” because of it focuses on customer service and improved working conditions. But on the other hand, some critics claim that the enterprise do not pays attention to a sustainable and environmentally production.

Are those opinions true?
Why is Deichmann reserved about talking about its subsistence strategy?
Does the company want to hide something?
What are the pro-arguments for Deichmann as a deep CSR company?
What are the cons?
How do professionals evaluate this problem?

Fastexposure has the answers!

Deichmann as a CSR heavyweight

As I already said in my introduction, Deichmann embodies a deep CSR company because it acts in accordance with sustainable and human policies, especially concerning the working environment. On their webpage, the enterprise defines the following principles and values:

  • Customer Service
    The company´s major aim is to satisfy the customer´s desires (sell shoes of high quality for a favorable price).
  • Employees
    The workers have the possibility to act entrepreneurial, responsible and innovative. Their desires, claims and needs are considered as well as implemented by the management.
  • Suppliers
    Deichmann focuses on a fair and cooperative relationship with its distributers. Thus it sticks to the “Code of Conduct” and pays attention to human working conditions in developing countries (no child labor, fair payments).
  • People in trouble
    Certain parts of the firm´s profit are used to offer extra social benefits for employees and to support people in need. Deichmann argues that “as long as the company goes well, it is possible to help others”.
  • Ethical Fashion
    Since 2012, Deichmann offers shoes which are produced environmental friendly and without toxic additives. Examples are “Elefanten green”-shoes for children and the “Gallus earth”-collection for men.

Thus, the firm´s slogan seems to be in accordance with the mentioned principles above:

“The company has to serve the people”

But what about the company´s irreproducible behavior with regards to the frugal publishment of its economic activities?

Clarifying this, Deichmann does not want to conceal some critical issues with regard to its economic activities. Of course, the company seems to be somehow reserved talking about its strategies but there is another reason for this behavior:

 “Sometimes I either say that we have to showcase our engagement more often. But then I am of the opinion that we just should act sustainably instead of wasting paper by publishing our activities” says Ulrich Effing, spokesperson and director of corporate communication.

But why are professionals still skeptics about Deichmann as a deep CSR company?
What are the contra arguments of critics?

Deichmann as a CSR light company

To explain why the company still cannot be counted as a CSR heavyweight you should remember the ethical shoe collection of Deichmann.
However those shoes mainly are produced by vegetable tanning and without solvents, you have to use chromium salt as well. This stresses the environment because you have to wash out the salt after the tanning with lots of water.

Even Andreas Tepest, director of the quality management department of Deichmann, criticizes:

“We don´t like that our collection is considered to be a “biological clacker”.

However, a study of “Stiftung Warentest” founds fault with an intense pollution of chromate in the “Elefanten green”-shoes for children in 2008. This can influence the health of children in a negative way. Therefore, Tepest promised that:

Deichmann is going to improve its production without any solvents. On the other hand, we cannot change to a completely vegetable tanning because other problems will be introduced, like deforestation. Basically, Deichmann´s production falls below the common norms of toxic ingredients in shoes.”

According to Ulrich Effing, another interesting phenomenon about Deichmann is that the company never had redundancies due to business operations or took a loan for 100 years.

Deichmann financed all its openings of chain stores out of pocket” he adds.

Sounds great! The enterprise seems to have a strong management.
But don´t you also think that this is somehow irreproducible?
What about the workers overseas? We know that 80% of Deichmann´s shoe collections are produced in China and Vietnam. So what about those (poor) employees who cannot afford a lawyer in case of such a redundancy?

“How can such a big low price company do business in this way?” claims Volker Eidems, German journalist and sociologist, in general.

To answer these questions, Deichmann should be more open-minded and publish reports about its economic activities more often. Otherwise, professionals cannot clarify critical arguments and consider this company neither to be CSR deep nor CSR light.
Additionally, Deichmann is trying to improve its production process to be more environmental friendly and sustainable. This would lead professionals to the true conclusion that the enterprise practices CSR after all.

“The awareness is already present; now Deichmann has to put mistakes and misunderstandings straight” Volker Eidems sums up.


About Lilly

Hei! Moi! Terve! My name is Lilly and I am a German business student spending two semesters abroad in Helsinki, Finland. I already felt in love with my new home in August, but now I decided to share my experiences with you. My aim is to give you an understanding of Finland itself, its culture as well as some advices at first hand; but hopefully, you are also convinced to get your own impressions visiting this breathtaking country at least once in your life. Tervetuloa!
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2 Responses to The “CSR double life” of Deichmann

  1. Fenja says:

    Nice post, Lilly!
    I think it was a great idea to choose a company that created and creates controversial opinions reagrding CSR, do some research on this matther and then try to evaluate for yourself what position CSR does have within this company.
    By presenting both Deichmann’s characteristics of an ‘CSR heavy-‘ respectively ‘lightweight’ you found a nice, structured approach in order to do so. I have never thought about the implications of CSR on Deichmann, so I found your post incredibly interesting.
    Personally though, I would have liked it even more if you hadn’t simply included direct quotes in order to underpin your arguments but rather paraphrase the expert opinions and put them in a meaningful framework.
    Other than that, great job!

  2. Pingback: “Das Unternehmen muss dem Menschen dienen” | Nachhall Texter

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