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Gerd Hofmann Keynote Presentation: Sustainability

ISM's 93rd Annual International Supply Management Conference

St. Louis, MO
May 2008


Gerd Hofmann, Head of Strategic Purchasing, HUGO BOSS AG

The Hugo Boss brand is synonymous with luxury, impeccable attention to detail, high quality and fashion. Gerd Hofmann, the head of strategic purchasing, spoke with Conference attendees on Tuesday afternoon about the sustainability initiative at the fashion company, and it was clear the company is equally committed to top-of-the-line green and socially-responsible business as it is staying on the cutting edge of high fashion.

"Our customers expect that we will adhere to high levels of sustainability, and as such we require our suppliers to meet our expectations," said Hofmann. "We also practice what we preach. We have made changes to our manufacturing facilities and taken sustainable action in optimization, environmental protection, and a number of other areas."

Hofmann's presentation had an international flair, as he is a native German speaker who humorously admitted he had a limited grasp on the spoken English language. Attendees were charmed, and seemed to welcome this opportunity to practice the intercultural listening skills they use when doing business in the global market everyday. Hofmann spoke about Germany's commitment to caring for the environment, and how the concerns in his country are the same concerns we all have regardless of location. There are three major impacts on the world that demonstrate why we all need to be concerned with sustainability, according to Hofmann. They are an increasing world population, limited natural resources, and economic imbalance. "If we don't voluntarily change our habits now, in the future we will be forced to change, and no one likes to be forced into anything," he noted.

He outlined the basics of how Hugo Boss has integrated their sustainability initiatives, which includes supplier management comprised of pre-evaluation and approval of suppliers, performance measurements, development and portfolio enhancement and communication. To find suppliers that satisfy corporate goals and sustainability targets, the company implemented a three-stage filtering system. First, a potential supplier is given a rough evaluation that takes a look at their general capabilities. Next, they go through a detailed evaluation that is followed up with an audit. This has enabled Hugo Boss to always have a way to monitor what is going on in their supply chain. In addition, existing and potential suppliers alike use a web browser-based tool to answer questions that help Hugo Boss determine who fits into the corporate profile, and Hofmann said all suppliers are now certified and things are currently "running smooth."

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