Online retailer Zalando commits to net-zero emissions and plastic-free packaging

Image: Zalando

German-based Zalando, the online fashion and beauty platform that caters to 28 million customers in 17 markets, has committed to carbon neutrality in its own operations and all of its deliveries and returns. Through energy efficiency measures and offsetting, Zalando has confirmed to edie that as of 30 October, the company is net-zero emissions for Scope 1 and 2. 

The company has recently switched to renewable energy to power 90% of its energy needs globally and carbon emissions that are not eliminated by operational improvements or green delivery options that are set to be rolled out will be offset.

Zalando’s chief executive Rubin Ritter said: “The fashion industry is facing sustainability challenges and we know we have been part of the problem. Going forward, our aspiration is to be part of the solution. We see a clear link between acting sustainably and continued commercial success.

“Only those who incorporate sustainability into their business strategy will stay relevant for their customers and we believe that it will be a competitive advantage in the future.”

At an event in Berline, Ritter added that the company would set a science-based target in 2020, increase ethical sourcing standards as part of the firm’s Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) membership and generate 20% of Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) – total sales value for merchandise sold through the platform – from sustainable products.

On GMV, 260 million products fell into the sustainability category in 2019. Ritter noted that reaching the 20% target would acquire the figure to surpass three billion. 

Closed-loop fashion

Additionally, Zalando will design its packaging to minimise waste and eliminate single-use plastics by 2023. Zalando already uses boxes made from 100% recycled materials and shipping bags consisting of 80% recycled plastics. Beauty bags have also been switched to 100% recycled paper.

Also set for 2023 is a target to apply circular economy principles that extend the life of at least 50 million fashion products. Zalando predicts that one million items will pass through its resale platform, Zalando Wardrobe, by the end of 2019.

The boost to the resale platform will aim to assist with the transition away from fast fashion – a major contributor to linear practices of “take, make and dispose”. Research from the Environmental Audit Select Committee revealed that UK residents are consuming new clothing at a faster rate than their counterparts in mainland Europe, purchasing an average of 26.7kg every year. The World Wear Project similarly estimates that the average household generates more than 35kg of waste clothing annually, with 85% being sent to landfill. In fact, MPs have quizzed online fashion retailers on their sustainability practices in recent months.

Zalando’s private label ZIGN will become the company’s flagship sustainability brand. By all ZIGN items will feature a specific sustainability flag, highlighting that the products meet at least one of the company’s social, environmental and animal welfare standards.

Already, Zalando’s sustainable fashion assortment features more than 15,000 items from more than 240 brands, including Ecoalf, Mud Jeans, Swe-s, Girlfriend Collective, and Stripe + Stare.

edie will publish an exclusive interview with Zalando’s director of corporate responsibility and sustainability Kate Heiny as part of our Net-Zero November month of content. Find out more here.

Matt Mace

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