Fotolia 19871285 kleinThe following article will answer the question: „How does the vanilla department of Gebrüder Wollenhaupt GmbH deal with sustainability?".

Sustainability has been guiding Gebrüder Wollenhaupt's business practice for decades. We align our business practice towards long-term goals and ethical values – in this context, the hanseatic commercial virtues are an essential part of our company's principles. This is one of the reasons why we are successfully established in the market since 1881.

Since September 2011, Gebrüder Wollenhaupt are registered members of SEDEX. On the SEDEX platform, our customers are offered a comprehensive self-assessment concerning our company’s business practices.

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  • SEDEX is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to ethical / sustainable business practices worldwide

  • It is the largest online database for the exchange of information on business ethics and sustainability issues

  • Companies‘ data is made available to business partners in a standardised form, therefore additional audits, questionnaires and certifications are no longer necessary

  • SEDEX membership helps companies to continuously improve their sustainability strategy


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Gebrüder Wollenhaupt’s vanilla suppliers must be SEDEX registered as well and share their self-assessment questionnaires on the SEDEX platform. An additional project, started in 2016, is the SMETA auditing process of the suppliers. 

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  • SMETA is an audit methodology and report format for ethical audits developed by SEDEX.
  • In a SMETA audit, an independent auditor visits the suppliers on-site to verify their compliance with ETI Base Code as well as with local and national laws.
  • The audit results are shared on the SEDEX platform. SMETA audits are used and accepted by companies worldwide.

Gebrüder Wollenhaupt was SMETA audited by SGS in July 2017, and the accuracy of the information given in the company‘s self-assessment questionnaire was confirmed. Should you have any questions about the results of the SMETA audit, please do not hesitate to contact us.

In 2013, as part of the development of a sustainability strategy, Gebrüder Wollenhaupt cooperated with an external service provider to produce a Hotspot analysis. The sustainability of the value chain for natural vanilla was evaluated and potential risk factors were identified.

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As part of the analysis, more than 200 sources were evaluated to get information about the most important countries of origin for natural vanilla: Madagascar, Uganda and Indonesia. The sustainability of the entire supply chain including cultivation, harvest, export and arrival at the warehouse in Reinbek was evaluated on the basis of 19 factors.

The results of the Hotspot analysis can be summarised as follows:

  • All three countries have laws and regulations to guarantee the safety of workers.

  • As the countries of origin for natural vanilla belong to the so-called threshold countries, there are uncertainties, e.g. concerning economical and political stability, which have to be taken into consideration when purchasing vanilla from these countries.

  • Pricing and corruption were identified as critical factors – profits are not always distributed evenly, leading to disadvantages for the small farmers.
  • The product safety is guaranteed in all three countries of origin.

  • As vanilla is grown by small farmers, it is an eco-friendly product – pesticides and plant protection products are not used.

When we purchase our raw material, we closely cooperate with our suppliers in the countries of origin. We rely on long-term partnership and support our business associates with the development and pursuance of their sustainability strategies. The cooperative partnership with our suppliers has been part of our guiding principles for decades – this is manifested by our „Company Code of Conduct". All our suppliers confirm to us in writing that they adhere to the ILO conventions, the BSCI Code of Conduct and the ETI Base Code.

Not everything can be influenced from Reinbek. But we can choose the right partners in the countries of origin and start reasonable projects in close cooperation with them. There are scarcely any questions concerning ethics and sustainability in the vanilla producing countries we cannot answer.

In June 2013 for example, one of our main suppliers started making conscious efforts to improve his CO² footprint. His vision is: CO² neutral vanilla production, from farm to consumer”.

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As part of the project, the company's CO² balance is assessed annually, and strategies for the CO² reduction in vanilla cultivation are derived from those figures (e.g. reforestation). The goal is to demonstrate an even CO² balance from the farm to the overseas customer. Their latest certificate shows that 4,000 trees have been planted, which means that carbon emissions have been offset to the value of 400 mt CO².

Gebrüder Wollenhaupt think that this project deserves to be supported. Therefore, our supplier regularly informs us about the progress and how we can be supportive. Bringing a product from the subtropics to the consumers in a CO² neutral way – we think that this is a useful contribution.

Gebrüder Wollenhaupt supports aid organizations in developing countries. For more than 20 years, the company has been cooperating with Plan, an independent aid organization committed to children’s rights and chances all over the world. For almost 80 years, Plan’s focus has been on the fact that boys and girls should be able to live a life free from poverty, violence and injustice.

Currently, Gebrüder Wollenhaupt is working on the Project „Protect Girls and Boys from Child Labour“ in Tanzania. For the first time, Gebrüder Wollenhaupt is in charge of a unique project component. „Create career prospects and income“ – that is the concrete objective of the project.

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