No matter the size of a company, as an employer and as an economic player, we not only have a responsibility to generate revenue but also to create a positive impact on the social world around us.

On a more direct dimension, this applies to our human resource strategy, which needs to take into account the different life phases of our employees and create the conditions for them to receive targeted development and support. At toom, we achieve this by developing new goals for a sustainable human resource strategy in cooperation with an external partner who audits and certifies our achievements. In the end, our economic success as a retail company relies on the satisfaction and performance of our employees.

On the other hand, our responsibility encompasses far more than our direct environment. Within every supply chain, we are able to take measures that affect people on a much wider scale. As climate and health challenges become more frequent and endanger the economic and financial safety of billions of people, creating a sustainable livelihood at the beginning of most supply chains gains even more importance.

Companies that don’t take action risk losing credibility, public trust, and investment possibilities as corporate social responsibilities are closely watched by stakeholders. However, it is also crucial to adopt a strategy that feels authentic to customers and stakeholders. The key is to develop a strategy that is rooted in the company’s brand and culture. At the same time, it needs to be a goal-driven strategy that challenges us to think bigger and set new, ambitious, yet achievable goals.

At the heart of toom’s corporate culture lies a belief in respect. For many years, we have incorporated this belief into our business strategy and based our sustainability measures on it as well. By doing this, our sustainability commitment feels authentic not only to our employees but also to our customers, creating a new way to identify with toom.

Authentic partnerships as the basis of CSR

Long-lasting partnerships that are close to the core business have proven to be very effective in terms of creating ownership within the company. On a national level, we have chosen to partner with social initiatives that allow our employees to locally engage with and support the causes as well. Many of our DIY stores cooperate with institutions such as the Bundesvereinigung Lebenshilfe e.V. to enable the inclusion and participation of people with mental disabilities in our work environment. Another very successful partnership is dedicated to the support and reintegration of homeless people. toom supports this cause by providing the building materials for mobile tiny houses that represent important safe spaces. Our local staff engages actively in supporting and shaping these partnerships, which is crucial to building trust in our sustainability strategy.

This trust and acceptance help build up and improve sustainability measures on an international level, whose impacts are not as observable at first by employees and customers. toom has been committed to more transparency and fair practices in its supply chains for years, looking all the way back to the origin of the products. toom has achieved better working conditions in many supply chains of our products, such as Christmas trees, natural stones, or Fairtrade plants, by cooperating with relevant stakeholders and initiatives.

Since 2018, toom has been cooperating with the Fair Trees organization to improve the working conditions of the cone pickers and support the local communities in the harvest region of our Christmas trees. As a holistic approach, the families of the cone pickers are included in these measures by receiving yearround health insurance and local communities are supported by social projects such as providing scholarships, free healthcare services, and establishing dental practices for children at a primary school. These projects are the fruit of a close collaboration with local organizations and authorities. As in any agricultural industry, a successful harvest and the income of the cone pickers strongly depend on climate conditions. An early frost or a lack of rain can mean that the fir trees do not develop enough cone seeds. For this reason, a fair supply chain must also mean income security for the workers in the case of harvest failures. When affected by a bad harvest, the cone pickers employed by the Fair Trees organization have the possibility to work for the organization’s social projects to receive their full salary, which covers the whole year.

Strong partnerships to scale up initiatives

Steadily driving our social and environmental impact relies on great commitment within the company as well as partnerships that share our beliefs. toom has been cooperating with Fairtrade for many years and has also been relying entirely on the Fairtrade mark for its poinsettia range since 2015. In an attempt to sell more plants with the Fairtrade label and strengthen the positive impact of Fairtrade on propagation farms in the global South, Fairtrade Germany and toom launched a pilot project that reduces costs for companies in the global North.

In order to expand the range of potted plants on offer and increase sales for farms in East Africa and Latin America, Fairtrade has joined forces with toom Baumarkt to launch a new, innovative pilot project For the workers, Fairtrade certification brings many advantages. These include, for example, fixed employment contracts, maternity protection, protective clothing, and training in the safe handling of chemicals. In addition, they receive at least the minimum wage prescribed by the Fairtrade standard and also benefit from the Fairtrade premium, which flows into community projects.

In the pilot project, the processes are simplified while still adhering to Fairtrade principles. For one thing, the nurseries in the global North that finish cultivating the plants from Fairtrade young plants for toom no longer have to be Fairtrade certified. Therefore, at this stage, there may be mixing of Fairtrade plants with conventional plants. However, it is still ensured that only the quantity of plants that are sold as Fairtrade certified were also purchased as cuttings from the farms under Fairtrade conditions. This is checked by the independent certification organization ‘Flocert’ at the importers and at toom. In addition, the European nurseries must prove to toom that they are certified according to a social and environmental standard, comply with the REWE residue guideline, and reduce their use of peat by 30 percent.

Supporting sustainable initiatives such as Fairtrade and working together to improve systems is a great contribution to our social and environmental footprint as a company and we firmly believe that joining forces and testing new ways is the way to a more sustainable impact.