Tchibo GmbH Upgrades SAI Corporate Membership

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Tchibo GmbH Upgrades SAI Corporate Membership

Interview with Tchibo's Head of Corporate Responsibility, Achim Lohrie
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Achim Lohrie has been the head of Corporate Responsibility at Tchibo GmbH since 2006. Tchibo is a family-owned company. It is one of the largest coffee roasters in Europe, and the leading coffee brand in Germany. In addition to coffee, its also sells non-food items via a multi-channel sales system encompassing branded shops, a dense network of depots at retailers, and a thriving Internet and mail-order trade, uniquely rotating its products every week. 

In this interview, Mr. Lohrie talks about why Tchibo GmbH upgraded its Corporate Programs membership to the Signatory level from the Explorer level, as well as how it aligns with Tchibo's "DNA."
Monday, June 4, 2012 - 8:45pm

Q. Why did you upgrade from the Explorer level to the Signatory level?

A.  We upgraded our Corporate Program membership to the Signatory level for various reasons. It's a good opportunity to see what SAI can offer, especially with Social Fingerprint®. The new membership structure provides even more services, such as Social Fingerprint®, classroom training and online training-- it's a good cost-benefit ratio.

Q. Signatory members are able to design a custom project that's tailored to their supply chain needs - what is your vision for Tchibo?

A.  Our current supply chain management system integrates social (and environmental) standards. We have a very intensive monitoring system on one hand, and on the other a training system vis-a-vis our WE Project (Worldwide Enhancement of Social Quality). There is a great opportunity to integrate what SAI is offering with the WE Project's qualification program for our suppliers.

Q. You just completed the Social Fingerprint® Supply Chain Management self-assessment - tell us about your experience.

A. When we were first approached by SAI, we were hesitant to be the first to take it because, since it was in the development phase, we were not sure what the time commitment would be. However, we were convinced that the structure and content was valuable. It turned out that the self-assessment did not take long to do: we did it two 45 minute sessions. It was helpful to be able to take a break and come back to the assessment because we had to discuss some of the data with different departments.

I've not received Tchibo's evaluation score so far but am eager to get it. The most decisive advantage about using this tool is it helps improve our management systems for social compliance. Our score will help us to calibrate, and we can develop an improvement plan if appropriate

Q. You mentioned the WE Project earlier. It's a fantastic project that fosters the needed dialogue between your buyers, suppliers, workers and their representatives. I know it recently expanded from China, Bangladesh and Thailand to India.  How is the project going, and how did it originate?

A. The project was developed from my over 22 years in the social responsibility field. We saw that auditing, getting data, alone does not change anything. Although we need a reasonable number of audits, and a qualitative way of assessing progress with Tchibo, we thought we should put more emphasis on the qualification aspect of our suppliers. We needed something more than just awareness seminars to lead into the improvement process.

To actually drive the change, we  looked at the different qualification systems that are already in place worldwide that were more focused on dialogue and partnership, rather than policing.  From there, we developed the WE Project that aligns with Tchibo's integration strategy based on our "Company DNA".

Q. Can you talk more about this integration aspect?

A. To operationalize the WE project, we needed to start a structured dialogue integrating all parties attracted, especially buyers, suppliers, their workers and workers' representatives, to give ownership to them, orientation and identification and most of all to create win-win situations.

The WE Project's model consists of at least three different levels of dialogue, starting with 1) dialogue between buyers and the top management of our suppliers, 2) dialogue between buyers and the workers and their representatives and 3) dialogue between the top management of our suppliers and their workers and workers representatives, it's all about developing a common improvement program. It's important to get input and acceptance from all stakeholders through a dialogue process, and not through policing.

Q. We talked about Tchibo's CSR efforts externally, now let's look internally. One of Tchibo's unique qualities is that its CSR program is integrated, with a strong senior management and leadership commitment  - how does Tchibo's organization culture contribute to its CSR efforts internally?

A. I think Tchibo is quite unique in and of itself, with the combination of coffee bars, a section where the end consumers can buy the beans, and the weekly rotation of non-food articles in our stores. We've always thought of ways to be unique in the business model and our organization behind. The DNA of our company is based on our business strategy of "building the future on our heritage." As a family-owned company, integration of the workforce always was and will be a success factor in the future.  We follow this integrated approach all the way from top management to the people in the daily business. Let me illustrate this by our WE project:

Under the commitment of our top management, the WE Project and the integration of the Social Fingerprint® program are driven by a colleague of mine who moved from my CSR department to the buying department when the project was "ripe." We integrated this knowledge directly into the buying department and thus gave the buyers internal ownership and responsibility of this program. So comparably we did in several other areas of our holistic CSR program like eco-product development, sustainable packaging, logistics, CSR communication and others.

For more information, visit This interview was conducted by SAI Communication Manager Joleen Ong. For inquiries, contact


Joleen Ong
+1 (212) 684-1414ext. 243
Social Accountability International (SAI)
Keywords: Business & Trade | Coffee | csr | socialenterprise | socialfingerprint | supplychain | tchibo