Societal Engagement and Corporate Citizenship at Zalando

We want to make an important contribution to tackling social challenges by offering direct and local support to social projects and initiatives

It is part of our DNA to strive towards being a good corporate citizen. We want to give back, be a good neighbor to our local communities, and offer our expertise to help solve global societal problems. We started our Corporate Citizenship Program in 2015 with a focus on engaging with our community to create new solutions for shaping an industry that operates in the best interests of all people involved. We are committed to using technology to increase supply chain transparency, strengthening communities by volunteering our expertise, and contributing to humanitarian organizations.

Our Strategic Partnerships

Strengthening Local Communities with is an online volunteering platform where people who would like to get socially involved can find suitable volunteering opportunities. In addition to recruiting volunteers and advising non-profit organizations on all aspects of their volunteer management, organizes corporate volunteering activities (individual or group activities, pro bono work and more), and advises companies on setting up and implementing corporate volunteering programs.

Zalando SE CR Volunteering
In volunteering projects, our employees can try their hand in a new environment and make a difference together.

As an employer, we want to play an active role in the communities around our various locations. We support our employees to do so by offering each of them two volunteering days per year. We have worked together with since their founding in 2015. To this day, 4,000 Zalandos have supported 250 projects through 13,800 hours of volunteering. This has created shared value for both the charities and our employees, for example, by beautifying the garden of the Caritas addiction counseling center in Berlin. During the coronavirus crisis, we worked with vostel to curate a variety of online volunteering opportunities, for example, online mentoring for young people who need help with their job application process.

Tackling societal challenges with Ashoka

Ashoka is the world’s leading network of social entrepreneurs, pioneering the field of social entrepreneurship, and identifying and supporting more than 3,500 world-class social entrepreneurs since 1980. Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social, cultural, and environmental challenges.

Partnering up for innovation - Zalando and Ashoka at the Hello Festival 

Zalando first partnered with Ashoka in the 2016 refugee crisis. With both organizations based on a startup spirit, entrepreneurship and innovation, we joined forces by organizing the Hello Festival in Berlin. The festival brought together international problem solvers and local experts to scale the world's best integration solutions resulting in, among other things, access to free online university education and the transformation of refugee shelters into sustainable and innovative ecosystems. Fast forward to 2020, the festival has scaled to a European program that continues to support integration solutions and is active in EU policy making. The success of this partnership created a blueprint that was reapplied both to Zalando’s own zImpact accelerator and our second joint collaboration in the context of the coronavirus crisis with Changemakers United.

Reaching People in Need with humedica

humedica e.V. is an international non-governmental organization based in Kaufbeuren, Germany (Bavaria). Since 1979 humedica has been active in the field of humanitarian work with a focus on medical aid, operating projects in over 90 countries around the world.

As Europe's leading online platform for fashion and lifestyle, it has always been Zalando’s position to offer customers an individual and diverse selection of products that they can try on at home and at their own convenience. Returned articles are sold again via the Zalando Shop, Zalando Lounge or Zalando Outlets. As an additional step, we use the opportunity to donate remaining stock to organizations such as humedica, which offers an extensive international network that helps us reach a wider group of people in need of the products we offer. Since the start of our partnership in 2015 we have made 21 donations, including collaborations on strategic response projects such as in the wake of floods in Indonesia in 2020, the “Box of Joy” and the donation of profits made from facemasks sales during the coronavirus crisis.

Scaling Technologies with Fashion for Good

At Zalando, we believe that greater transparency is an important factor in driving change, enabling companies and consumers to make informed choices, creating a better fashion industry for all. In 2018 and 2019, our accelerator program, zImpact, scaled innovative digital solutions to increase supply chain transparency. Over the course of this program, we built a pipeline of approximately 90 for- and nonprofit organizations that use technology to increase supply chain transparency, of which we supported more than 40 with visibility, funding and the expertise of our employees. With the development of our new sustainability strategy we have taken the opportunity to streamline our programming and align more closely with industry initiatives. For this reason, we will continue to support innovative ventures through our partnership with Fashion for Good and focus on the implementation of these solutions into our business.

Fashion for Good is an international platform for collaborative innovation in the fashion industry. With a mission to bring together the entire fashion ecosystem, Fashion for Good aims to scale sustainable innovations through practical action to drive the change towards an inclusive and circular fashion system where sustainable fashion is the new “business as usual.” Zalando has been a member of Fashion for Good since 2017 and has collaborated on a number of projects and pilots, such as the Organic Cotton Traceability Pilot

Read more about transparency innovators and Fashion for Good in the second TRANSPARENT magazine published by our partner betterplace lab and enabled by Zalando.

Zalando SE zImpact Hackathon
Participants during Zalando's inaugural zImpact Hackathon with the topic “Supply Chain Transparency.”

The fashion industry on its way towards sustainability

Contributing to Humanitarian Aid

In 2019, we donated 100,000 euros worth of in-kind donations and spent 75,000 euros from our disaster relief fund to respond to global crises. For instance, we supported people in dire need who had been affected by an earthquake in Albania and heavy rainfalls in Indonesia. We have a fast and efficient infrastructure via to make sure our contributions are used transparently and allow us to involve our employees and customers in the donation process.

Our Response to the Coronavirus

The current Coronavirus pandemic is a global issue that needs to be addressed by all societal players. For Zalando, as stated in the letter from our Management Board, our priority is to keep our employees safe, protect our company by keeping it operational, and to be part of the solution in the societal efforts of slowing down the spreading of the virus. 
As Europe’s leading platform for fashion and lifestyle, we share risks and opportunities with the broader fashion industry. From the conversations with our partners, we know that we are less affected than many others in our industry and that our platform can make a significant difference to brands and retailers in these times. We have looked into ways to support our ecosystem in these difficult times and have identified the following measures.

Connected Retail

Our Connected Retail program consists of more than 2,400 active partners across eight markets. We continue to accelerate this initiative to support brands and retailers to maintain at least a part of their business during the ongoing crisis. Since November 2020, we waived the commission fee again for all new and existing physical stores that participated in our Connected Retail Program. The program has since expanded to Finland, Norway and Denmark, followed by Austria, Belgium, France, Italy and Switzerland next year.

Zalando SE Innovation Connected Retail
With Connected Retail, we combine the online and offline world on the Zalando platform.

Supporting Changemakers

Building on our existing partnership, Ashoka and Zalando launched a joint program to help alleviate the immediate disruption the coronavirus is causing in communities across Europe, as well as to address the longer-term consequences of the crisis on our society and economies. Changemakers United leverages Ashoka’s well-established network of social innovators, Zalando’s workforce and our Hello Festival’s proven approach of accelerating and replicating solutions to a crisis. We have selected 20 social innovators in the areas of providing health care, protecting vulnerable groups, education models and tools, reliable and accessible information, and solutions for the economic and political effects.Through the program, the innovators are supported with funding, mentoring and pro-bono expertise from partner companies and individuals in order to support the scaling of their solutions to the crisis. 

Zalando SE Changemakers United
Through the Changemakers United program, 20 social entrepreneurs are supported to scale their solutions.

Distributing “Boxes of Joy”

Social distancing and school closures have been particularly difficult for underserved families and children. While we could not change this situation, we wanted to provide those affected with a distraction and make this time at home more joyful, in true Zalando fashion. Between April and June 2020, we sent "Boxes of Joy" containing Zalando products to nearly 38,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 4-18 in 17 European countries. We were able to reach these children and adolescents through the network of the following organization, amongst others: milaa e.V, kein Abseits, Tentaja, SOS Kinderdorf Berlin, Märkisches Kinderdorf Ludwigsfelde, SOS-Kinderdörfer weltweit Hermann-Gmeiner-Fonds Deutschland e.V., humedica and Save The Children. We also want to thank DHL and Nike for their partnership and donations to our community members in need. Additionally, we are very thankful to the Zalando volunteers for packing the boxes.

Facemask Sales and Donation

Since April 2020 Zalando has expanded its fashion assortment to include a variety of non-medical, textile masks produced by both our partner brands and our private labels. Over a million masks were sold between the months of April to July, generating close to 780,000 euros of profit, which we donated to our partner humedica for their global response to the coronavirus. As part of their response, humedica supports countries that have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus with the distribution of food packages, hygiene kits and school supplies, as well as the provision of medical care in refugee camps.

From July 1, 2020, the profit from mask sales will go to our partner Ashoka to further support the Changemakers United program and the 20 Social Entrepreneurs that are driving innovative solutions for the immediate and mid-term consequences of the crisis. 


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