When Spreadshirt started out in 2002, it was a two-person operation printing T-shirts on demand for customers online. What started in a small shop has now developed into a multi-national company with over a thousand employees. Spreadshirt runs a network of global brands customizing a range of 300+ products for customers worldwide.
With our growing business demands, we feel a stronger sense of responsibility to implement sustainable practices to commit to our planet, our people, and our economy. We want to sustainably change and positively influence our business with new standards. Our Corporate Social Responsibility report illustrates how we live the issue of sustainability.
“Shoulder tomorrow’s responsibility by accepting it today.”
We understand that real responsibility can be measured by the respect we show for our planet, our people, and our economy. This means that we must hold ourselves accountable for the sustainability of our actions. In other words: we need to strike a balance between what helps us grow as a business and the effect our actions have on our employees, our society, and the environment.
Our business model is print-on-demand. With print-on-demand, individuals and group buyers customize a product just the way they want it — when they want it. Print on demand means a product is only printed once ordered and in the quantity required. Customers get exactly what they want, and we don’t produce overstock. This is how we can completely avoid wasteful overproduction. At just under 2%, our return rate is at the industry’s best And if we do get returns, we either donate them to charity or recycle them for use as insulation wool.
As a company, we are investing increasingly in environmentally friendly manufacturing. Our direct-to-garment production uses less water when compared to industry standard. This is achieved with specialized Kornit printers, which use vegan ink to reduce water and energy consumption. And since transitioning to an almost completely paperless production in 2019, we have managed to save 767 trees per year by removing paper documents from each order.
We love eco-friendly products. And that’s why we’re already carrying quite a few of them in our assortment. Our sustainable materials are made from organic, recycled, or environmentally friendly materials. We’ve committed to doubling the number of eco-friendly products by the end of 2022, thereby providing an eco-friendly alternative for almost every category. By then, we’ve also committed to making our products’ origin, materials, and certificates more transparent to help our customers shop more responsibly.
We want our products to be durable, which makes them more sustainable and comfortable. That’s why we put every product through rigorous testing. Before adding a new product to our assortment, we test its durability and longevity by putting them through a series of test-prints and wash tests. We also take customer feedback into account to ensure that our products continue to meet our high-quality standards.
Switching to renewable energy is an easy step to take if you are willing to accept a little effort. We’ve switched to energy suppliers offering green energy for our EU servers and offices at our headquarters in Leipzig since the beginning of 2020, and we’ll do the same at our locations in the USA.
At Spread Group, we believe that you need to love what you do to make our customers love what they get. That’s why we were the world’s first company to introduce a feel-good manager in 2011. Feel-good management brings about an atmosphere at work that gives our staff a feeling of belonging. An open and respectful culture is the diversely beating heart of our company, with activities such as yoga, free fruits, and BBQs contributing to an atmosphere where people feel integrated in the workplace. And the feel-good atmosphere goes beyond those little perks – we prioritize our employees' changing needs, which requires a great deal of flexibility when accommodating the individual requirements every member of staff has. Our Community Guidelines give you an impression of how we define fair human relationships We value diversity as a guiding principle of our work.
We make sure that our suppliers adhere to our Code of Conduct so we’re on the same page. We make very sure that the conditions on site for the production of our own Premium Collection are in line with our standards, and that the suppliers can provide certificates, memberships, and quality seals vouching for fair conditions. We’ve met our suppliers from Bangladesh, Turkey, and Portugal on several occasions in person, and we inspected the sites until we were absolutely certain that these live up to our standards for ethical work conditions and fair pay (see item 5 of our Code of Conduct).
Our production sites in Europe and the USA give employees the security of long-lasting work relationships with a reliable employer. Some of the longest-serving members of staff have been with us for well over ten years, and we feel committed to give back to our team members. With the collaboration of local daycare centers, we help employees with children look after the supervision of their little ones so that the employees – if they wish to do so – can continue to pursue their career.
Our business model is based on giving everyone a chance to make money by selling creative ideas. Designers, companies, influencers, and everyone else can upload a design to our Marketplace or open their own free Spreadshop. This opens a door for independent designers to make money with their designs, and it gives those selling merchandise an extra source of income. We don’t charge for the service, and we take care of shipping and customer service.
After twenty years of experience in the industry, our company culture still keeps its friendly start-up vibes. We take great pride in a very special working atmosphere with flat hierarchies and a dedication to sustainable growth. Our business management has helped the company grow steadily over the years, while supporting our independent designers with a total of €17MM in 2020 alone.
From our origins as a start-up in 2002, Spread Group has reached a total of 3 million orders worldwide ten years later. Our e-commerce statistics showed a turnover of some €65M, which was 41% over the previous year. 300 members of staff were employed in the Germany and the USA. Fast forward 8 years to 2020, and the global revenue almost hit €170M (29% over the previous year), printed on just over 9.8 million items. Over 1,000 people from 40 countries were employed at our headquarters in Leipzig and our production sites in Poland, the Czech Republic, and the USA.
We know that we have a great deal more to do to make our business more sustainable, and we are continuously honing our efforts to reduce our waste and impact. It is our aim to significantly minimize our footprint by 2023. As to the mode of packaging, we will be going fully plastic-free with European shipments in 2022. And will tackle our North American consignments next. We’ll also keep adding eco-friendly products to our range to help facilitating sustainable choices. And we’ll be improving energy efficiency in production to sustainably reduce our carbon footprint.
Sustainable conduct means cultivating a harmony between our actions, the natural world, and the people that sustain us. Together we can make a difference for a greener future.