Letter from Rubin

"We have been encouraged by the recognition we have received for our work."

Zalando SE Sustainability Progress Report 2020 Rubin Ritter

In this tumultuous last year, in which COVID-19 has dominated the global discourse, we have all been confronted with a paradigm shift that has led to unprecedented challenges - from how we organize our daily lives to how we run our businesses. The pandemic has brought incredible hardship and loss to many. Still, its dominance creates a risk that we lose sight of other fundamental challenges: the consequences of climate change may turn out to be just as deadly as the pandemic. And growing social and economic imbalances may impede our progress toward a just and fair society.

The pandemic has shown how quickly humans can adopt new behaviors when it matters. Within weeks we organized stringent lockdowns, shifted from physical interactions to video calls, turned our homes into offices and schools, and started to wear masks in public. And in less than a year, an effective vaccine was developed and approved. Can we move with the same level of decisiveness and speed to tackle climate change? At Zalando, one of our core values is to “think big and act fast”. We aspire to bring this value to life in our sustainability work.

In 2019, we set out our agenda for change with the launch of our do.MORE strategy and our vision to be a sustainable fashion platform with a net-positive impact for people and the planet. We also outlined six focus areas, ranging from cutting our carbon emissions to applying the principles of circularity to the fashion industry. We defined specific targets, which we aim to reach within the coming years (not decades). In this inaugural progress report, we highlight what we have achieved over the past year and provide a detailed roadmap for the coming years.

We should view every euro and every minute that we spend on our sustainability vision not as a cost but as an investment to stay relevant for our customers, to further define our role in the fashion industry, and to attract the best talent globally.

We are encouraged by the progress we have made. We have become carbon neutral in our own operations, reducing our direct emissions1 by 64% relative to 2017 and offsetting the remaining emissions. We have set ambitious reduction targets until 2025, which are in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. In 2020, we offered our customers more than 80,000 products that were flagged as “more sustainable”, because they fulfilled at least one of our sustainability criteria. We generated 16%, or more than €1.7bn of GMV2, from these more sustainable products, up from around €500m in 20193. This has encouraged us to lift our 2023 target from 20% of GMV to 25%, while continuing to raise the bar on eligibility criteria. Finally, we made sustainability assessments mandatory for all partner brands, and we were the first retailer to use the Higg Brand & Retail Module from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to do this.

We have been encouraged by the recognition we have received for our work. In the past year we were placed on the CDP “A List” for excellence in environmental disclosure, as well as the CDP Supplier Engagement Leaderboard for raising the level of climate ambition across our value chain. We are eager to receive more feedback on our efforts, both positive and negative.
Driving change does not come for free. However, we should view every euro and every minute that we spend on our sustainability vision not as a cost but as an investment to stay relevant for our customers, to further define our role in the fashion industry, and to attract the best talent globally. I am convinced that if we make the right investments fast, they will form an important competitive edge for Zalando in the future.

I would like to thank my Zalando colleagues, who have embraced our sustainability commitments with open arms and made enormous efforts in 2020 to reach, and in some cases exceed, our targets. It is their dedication, energy, and inspiration that defines, and will drive, our roadmap going forward.

Rubin Ritter
ZALANDO SE, Co-CEO

Berlin, March 16, 2021


1 Scope 1 and 2
2 Zalando Group, after returns
3 Zalando Fashion Store, after returns