Defining Sustainable Fashion

Zalando makes it easy for customers to discover and shop more sustainable fashion

When it comes to sustainability, our customers share our values. Today, nine out of ten Generation Z customers believe that companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues, and one in four Zalando customers consider sustainability when making a purchasing decision. In the first half of 2020, more than 35 percent of our customers bought at least one product carrying the sustainability flag.

However, we still face obstacles. There is no industry-wide definition of what constitutes sustainable fashion. This lack of a global standard results in brands and retailers using broad and often conflicting language, which leads to customer confusion. As Europe’s leading platform for fashion and lifestyle offering more than 600,000 products from more than 2,500 brands, we want to lead the industry toward one common standard for sustainability. In the meantime, we are taking bold action to ensure that we highlight the different benefits of our growing sustainability assortment and make it easy for customers to make more sustainable purchasing decisions.

Our Target

By 2023, we aim to generate 20 percent of our GMV (Gross Merchandise Volume) with more sustainable products.

To reach this goal, we will make sustainable fashion more visible on our website through our sustainability flag and dedicated awareness campaigns. Our sustainability flag highlights criteria based on industry best practice and third party standards, which we constantly reevaluate and adapt to ensure they stay relevant for customers. As a platform, we make it easier for our customers to make more sustainable choices, by collaborating with brands, increasing our assortment and ultimately driving positive change in the fashion industry.  

Zalando SE Sustainability A Collaborative Approach Campaign Group
The campaign “A collaborative approach. Zalando on sustainability,” stars Zalando employees, who are building a more sustainable future for the company and are also passionate advocates of sustainability in their personal lives.

Our Sustainability Assortment

Zalando’s sustainability assortment currently features more than 40,000 products, which make up 10 percent of our GMV. These products carry our sustainability flag when they meet at least one of our sustainability criteria, covering social, environmental and animal welfare standards. Customers can find this information on our Hub Page for sustainability in the fashion store, or use the "Sustainability" filter at the top of the catalogue. Product credentials and sustainability benefits, including third-party certificates, are displayed on the product detail page, making the information accessible and transparent. We’re proud to say that all products from our private label ZIGN have fulfilled our sustainability criteria since spring/summer 2020 and we are working to increase the share of more sustainable products across all our private labels.
 

Zalando SE Small steps. Big impact. by Zalando
For Spring 2020, Zalando has teamed up with nine Nordic brands to develop...
Zalando SE Small steps. Big impact. by Zalando
... an exclusive, more sustainable womenswear collection: "Small steps. Big impact. by Zalando".

Our Sustainability Criteria

Our sustainability criteria are aligned with internationally recognized best practices in the fashion industry, including the Higg Materials Sustainability Index and Textile Exchange's Preferred Fibers and Materials list, addressing the most impactful stages of production, such as raw materials and manufacturing. Furthermore, as part of our efforts concerning animal welfare and biodiversity, we have banned the use of certain animal products, such as fur and mohair for all brands and have certified all our private labels to the Responsible Down Standard. You can learn more about our efforts in our Ethical Sourcing Standards.

However, we know that this doesn't accurately reflect all aspects of sustainability, or the work that our brand partners are doing to drive positive impact in their supply chains. In addition to the criteria of our sustainability flag and to further drive positive impact, we are the first platform to have made sustainability assessments mandatory for all our brand partners. We push industry boundaries and drive the development and adoption of a global sustainability standard through our membership of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). 

On a brand level, we are using the SAC’s Brand & Retail Module (BRM) as a basis for a sustainability assessment and rolling it out step by step to brand partners in order to gather comparable sustainability data to better understand and act on the challenges faced by the industry. 

On a product level, we are testing the SAC’s product tools for customer-facing communication on standardized sustainability measurements regarding each product’s material composition.

 

Global Organic Textile Standard
The Global Organic Textile Standard is one of the leading and most trusted certifications for textiles made from organically grown raw materials. Products with this label are made with at least 70% organic content and every stage of the supply chain is independently certified, to ensure environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing all the way to the final product.
 
Organic Content Standard
The Organic Content Standard provides a strong chain of custody system to verify organic content from the source of the raw material to the final product. Products with this label contain at least 95% organic content and every stage of the supply chain is independently certified. The certification does not address the use of chemicals or any social or environmental aspects of production.
Organic Blended Content Standard
The Organic Blended Content Standard provides a strong chain of custody system to verify organic content from the source of the raw material to the final product. Products with this label shown on Zalando contain at least 50% organic content and every stage of the supply chain is independently certified. The certification does not address the use of chemicals or any social or environmental aspects of production.
Fairtrade Certified Cotton
Fairtrade Cotton ensures that farmers receive a fair price and additional trade premiums to invest back into their local communities. Fairtrade Cotton protects farmers’ health and safety, promotes efficient water usage, and prohibits the use of dangerous chemicals or genetically-modified cotton seeds. Products with this label are made with at least 50% Fairtrade Cotton.
Global Recycled Standard
The Global Recycle Standard is one of the leading and most trusted certifications for products made from recycled content. Products with this label are made with at least 50% recycled content and every stage of the supply chain is independently certified, to ensure environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing all the way to the final product.
Responsible Down Standard
The Responsible Down Standard ensures holistic respect for animal welfare and prohibits the removal of down from live birds and force feeding. Products with this label contain only certified down and every stafe of the supply chain is independently certified.
Responsible Wool Standard
The Responsible Wool Standard ensures holistic respect for animal welfare and best practice regarding the management and protection of the land. Products with this label contain only certified wool and every stage of the supply chain is independently certified.
Leather Working Group
The Leather Working Group is made up of brands, retailers, manufacturers, chemical suppliers and technical experts which work together to develop environmental assessments and promote best practices in the leather industry. Products with this label contain leather that has been sourced from environmentally responsible leather manufacturers certified to Bronze, Silver or Gold level via the Leather Working Group protocol.
Better Cotton Initiative
The Better Cotton Initiative exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future. BCI trains farmers to use water efficiently, care for the health of the soil and natural habitats, reduce use of the most harmful chemicals and respect the rights and wellbeing of workers. Products with this label contain at least 50% cotton, from a retailer or brand that is committed to sourcing Better Cotton and investing in BCI Farmers. It does not mean the product is made of physically traceable Better Cotton.
EU Ecolabel
The EU Ecolabel is a label of environmental excellence that is awarded to products and services meeting high environmental standards throughout their life-cycle: from raw material extraction, to production, distribution and disposal. Products with this label represent the top 10-20% most environmentally-friendly products currently available in the market.
Organic Cotton
Products with this label are made with at least 50% organic cotton, which is produced without the use of any synthetic pesticides and fertilisers or genetically-modified seeds. Most organic cotton is rain-fed, leading to significant water savings, and organic agricultural practices also ensure that farmers produce more than one crop, which supplements their food and income and helps regenerate the soil.
Eco Material
Products with this label are made from at least 50% more environmentally-friendly materials which help save water and energy or protect forests, such as hemp, jute, lyocell, more sustainable viscose and FSC-certified wood, paper, rubber or cork.
Recycled Material
Products with this label contain at least 20% recycled content, made from old clothing, plastic bottles or even fishing nets.This means less water, energy and waste than virgin materials and a smaller environmental footprint.
Eco Processing
Products with this label are made using more environmentally-friendly processes, which use less water, energy or chemicals or produce less waste. Under this label we currently include chrome-free tanned leather, water-based polyurethane, and independent certifications like bluesign®, STeP by OEKO-TEX® and MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX®.
Innovative Materials
Products with this label are made with at least 20% environmentally-friendly materials, which offer innovative alternatives to leather, reduce the use of fossil fuels or give new life to materials that would otherwise go in the trash, like pineapple leaves or coffee grounds.

Zalando SE Customer Sustainable Fashion
Customers can use the "Sustainability" filter at the top of the catalogue to find more sustainable fashion. 

Making Sustainability Easy

With our sustainability assortment and underlying criteria, we have made great progress in recent years in displaying sustainability information to customers in order to help them make more sustainable purchasing decisions. Now, we want to go further by providing greater and more transparent information in a way that speaks to the customer’s values and makes it effortless to understand what makes a product or a brand sustainable. 

While almost 60 percent of our customers agree that Zalando offers an extensive range of sustainable products, only 25 percent of non-customers are aware of this sustainability assortment.

As a platform with a reach of over 34 million customers in Europe, we recognize our ability to accelerate a shift towards more sustainable behaviour by establishing an ongoing dialogue with our customers along the entire customer journey; from browsing a product in our shop to the end of its use. In doing so, we also aim to establish ourselves as a sustainable fashion platform with a net-positive impact for people and the planet.

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