CSR @ Spread Group: 5 Questions for Henriette Hellwing

Published 05. May 2021 in Company Responsibility
CSR @ Spread Group: 5 Questions for Henriette Hellwing

Henriette has been our Teamlead Facility & Office Management for seven years now. She has been managing all tasks related to facility management at the Leipzig site. As a nature-loving person, Henriette is deeply impressed with the green transformation of her home region. A native of Saxony from the south of Leipzig, she recalls vivid childhood memories with opencast lignite mining pits of the GDR aera. Today, this area has been transformed to the Leipzig Neuseenlandschaft, a lake resort.

After completing her commercial training, Henriette wanted to work for a regional, yet internationally active company that keeps an eye on the “big picture” and is also committed to sustainability. Today, she and her team of five develop and support all projects that make the working environment at the Leipzig site greener and healthier.

Spread Group: How do you personally define sustainability?

Henriette Hellwing: Sustainability is a big thing. For me, it means taking small steps to make positive changes in my life and environment. I am very close to nature and enjoy my life just outside the city. For the last three years that we have had our own garden, where consciously allowed wild growth for insects. In general, I am looking very carefully at what I buy and how it is packaged. For example, I have rediscovered the farm stores in my neighborhood. Their products are organic, regional, and taste just wonderful!

Spread Group: What motivates you to live a more sustainable lifestyle?

Henriette Hellwing:
I still remember how dirty the air, rivers, and lakes were as a result of open-cast mining in my childhood. The positive effects of structural change are therefore not abstract to me – I see how nature has recovered. This has shown me once again how important it is as the most important our basis for lives. We should take good care of it and can already make a big difference by considering these questions: What food do we eat? What clothes do we buy? And how do we use natural resources such as water sparingly?

Spread Group:
What role does sustainability play in your job and in the tasks of your team?

Henriette Hellwing:
When I started at Spread Group in 2014, there were already several projects in my department. And here it is just as true that many small things contribute to the big picture and every single action or measure is important. For example, we have been using pure green electricity for over 7 years. As a result, we were able to save over 130 tons of CO2 at the Leipzig site in 2020. We are currently pushing the topic of “recycling”. We are working with an external recycling service provider who sorts, processes and disposes of our waste mechanically. We separate paper, metal and glass waste in advance and take some of it to the recycling center. Although we all work online, we still cannot do without paper and toner, but we have set up collection points throughout the building for empty toner cartridges and batteries, and we dispose of them properly. We are also increasingly using rechargeable batteries.

The fruit baskets in our tea kitchens are filled with seasonal and regional products – increasingly also in organic quality. Instead of water bottles, there are water dispensers throughout the building. This reduces plastic consumption enormously. We recently switched our milk completely to organic, and we also offer milk alternatives such as oat or soy milk as another option. When purchasing toilet paper or towel paper, we make sure that it is certified with the “Blue Angel”.

Another goal is the gradual switch to green mobility. When purchasing our company cars, we already ensure low fuel consumption and the corresponding environmental badges. They are not personal company cars, but pool vehicles for all employees. Our company bicycles are even more environmentally friendly. Our colleagues can borrow them at any time for shorter distances. For longer journeys, they mainly travel by Deutsche Bahn. Flights cannot always be avoided, but we try to minimize them as much as possible. Aand if we do have to fly, we use programs that offset CO2.

When renovating our building, we make sure to use environmentally friendly paints. Our furniture is reused as often as possible, sometimes appropriately refurbished for a new purpose, given away or sold for a small contribution. When commissioning service providers and trades, locality is very important to us, so that no long journeys are necessary.

Spread Group: Have you set yourselves specific sustainability goals?

Henriette Hellwing:
The next project we would like to tackle is the lighting in our building. We have already contacted a lighting specialist who will help us with more sustainable and long-lasting lighting in the building. After all, we need to illuminate our nearly 6,000 square meters while keeping environmental protection and electricity consumption in mind. We also want to use more sustainable alternatives in our office supplies, such as pens with cardboard instead of plastic covers. We often get great suggestions from our colleagues about what we could improve. For example, our next step will be to reduce the number of waste-paper baskets at our desks and the waste bags we use for them. A small step that is supported by everyone and thus contributes to more sustainability.

Spread Group: What do you recommend to all readers who would like to further explore the topic of sustainability?

Henriette Hellwing: I think it would be great if more people were concerned with sustainability. There are now many sustainable companies that, for example, plant a tree for every product sold or actively participate in the reforestation of the rainforest. I think that’s great and worth supporting! I also recommend the magazine and podcast “Hirschhausens Sprechstunde“ by Dr. Eckart von Hirschhausen. In “Gesund leben” he frequently writes about climate change and is a committed advocate for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN). His podcast deals with topics related to health and well-being. It repeatedly returns to sustainability issues in the process.

Spread Group: Thank you for the interview, Henriette!


CSR @ Spread Group – 5 Questions for Dave Gorman

Published 06. Apr 2021 in Company Insights Responsibility
CSR @ Spread Group – 5 Questions for Dave Gorman

Corporate Social Responsibility is not just trendy topic, but an attitude. The goal is to create a good life for everyone. In our new interview series, we ask our staff how they feel about one of the most important issues in our industry: sustainability. And how committed are they themselves?

We’re kicking off our interview series with Dave Gorman, Director of Customer Experience and CSR Project Officer at Spread Group. Dave originally hails from Boston, where he started his university studies in Neuroscience before completing his degree in Creative Writing. He has lived in Leipzig for over 15 years now, and previously worked as a copywriter and English Teacher before coming to Spreadshirt as a writer. Now he is responsible for the teams that handle User Research & Experience, Copywriting & Translation, Photography, and central Design functions. It was his father who used to be quite ahead of the curve when it came to recycling and conscious shopping. This is how Dave developed a keen interest in environmental issues from an early age, not least because his travels to parts of the world – where the effects of unsustainable practices are quite visible – influenced his ecological awareness.

Spread Group: How do we define sustainability at Spread Group?

Dave Gorman: We see sustainability made up of three important pillars: environment, economy, society. While the environment is a huge factor on our minds and on our customers’ minds – the economic and societal sides of sustainability are a part of our responsibility that we feel we also need to contribute to. Under the environmental umbrella, we see our print-on-demand model as the basis for sustainable commerce. It goes along with where and how our products are sourced, how much of our product range is made up of eco-friendly products, the quality and longevity of our products, our use of packaging, and a number of other green initiatives. When it comes to the society, we look at both our responsibility to our employees across the planet and the responsibility for the kind of content that can be sold on our platform. And finally, we’re excited about our economic role of supporting small to medium sized businesses and independent designers. We empower them with a place to earn money selling online, as well as the other philanthropic campaigns to provide support to those in need.

Spread Group: What does sustainability mean to Spread Group?

Dave Gorman: Sustainability has been an important part of Spread Group from the very beginning. The core of our business model relies on the print-on-demand model. Compared to typical clothing companies, we only print and sell what is purchased, which prevents unsold overstock and reduces waste. While we’re proud of those roots, we’ve seen how important this topic is for our customers, our employees, and the environment itself. That’s why we look forward to doing even more to meet those challenges.

Spread Group: How do we promote sustainability at Spread Group?

Dave Gorman: We formed a task force, a cross-company team whose job it is to uncover more about the sustainable efforts we’re already making. And we also discover what else we can do, and then drive those new sustainability initiatives. While we’re proud of the things we’re already doing, we’re really excited to tackle problems around our carbon footprint, sourcing & supply chain, eco-friendly product range, packaging, and more.

Spread Group: What are the biggest challenges for an e-commerce company in the textile industry in terms of sustainability? How do we meet these challenges?

Dave Gorman: There are some very really tough challenges for e-commerce companies in the textile industry. It starts with where and how cotton is grown (or synthetic fibers are sourced), all the way to how customers use, reuse, and recycle these products. Our print-on-demand approach solves one of the biggest issues of overproduction and waste issues that fast fashion companies face. However, the questions of a) where and how our suppliers source their materials and b) what kind of packaging involved in shipping our products to customers remain the challenges we are more than willing to accept.

Spread Group:
What is your personal advice on how to be more sustainable in your everyday life?

Dave Gorman: As an individual you can live more sustainably, because you have the choice to reduce, reuse, and recycle. You can ask yourself, do I really need something? Where is it produced? And can the item it replaces be reused or recycled? There’s this great podcast series by Jane Goodalls Hopecast that I find very inspirational. She’s a scientist, activist, and amazing storyteller who takes a look at the adversities that the planet and environment face. What’s great about it is being given a view through the optimistic lens of how human spirit and hope can still make a difference. And it feels like her many experiences have made a difference already. I highly recommend it!

Spread Group: Thank you for the interview, Dave!

Since 2011, Spread Group has been donating brand-new merchandise to charities worldwide to put returns to good use.

Spread Group Gives Return-to-Sender Threads a second Chance

We at Spread Group accept our responsibility for a sustainable conduct by donating to a good cause. For ten years, orders that could not be delivered – or have been returned to us – have been donated to a good cause. At least one sizable in-kind donation leaves each of our five production sites every week. In 2020, there were a total of 70 donations with up to 50 products a piece. This way, thousands of brand-new hoodies, caps, and accessories have found a new home with charities or families in need over the years. A basic requirement for receiving such a donation is getting in touch with our returns service.

Kristin Graf is responsible for the returns service at our headquarters in Leipzig. “We don’t throw anything away!” confirms Kristin Graf. “We donate those never-worn goods to people who urgently need them. In the pre-Christmas period, we were able to make some associations and families very happy with our surprise packages. We also managed to take specific design requests into account, such as prints with dogs or horses for children.”

Before a donation is made, undeliverable returns get examined by a member of staff. New goods with personal imprints or company logos are sorted out. These are processed into insulation wool by a recycling company. Over the years, the returns-service team has established a large network with children’s hospices, families in need and homeless charities around the world. “We always receive thank-you letters from the donation recipients. It’s a nice feeling that gives us an extra boost to keep doing our work,” says Kristin Graf.

Further links

Spread Group Gives Return-to-Sender Threads a second Chance_2