The largest online-only fashion retailer in Europe, Zalando, has announced that sustainability will be a requirement for all brands on the platform from 2023.
Currently, 2,000 fashion brands sell their products via Zalando. All of them will have to submit supply chain information by the deadline and, if they don’t meet requirements set out by the company, will have to commit to improvements or stop selling on the site altogether.
To assess the sustainability and social impact of what it sells, the company is using the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Brand and Retail Module (Higg BRM). The tool measures a brand’s performance in areas like human rights, fair wages and carbon dioxide emissions. Standardising sustainability in this way means that all brands will be comparable, which will cut down on confusing messages about ethics and eco-friendliness.
But it’s more than just a way for Zalando to ensure that ethical and environmental requirements are met by the brands it sells. It is pushing for industry-wide change so that the challenges faced by fashion brands are clearer. The data collected will make it possible to develop solutions for common problems among the company’s partner brands.
“Zalando’s decision to require its partner brands to use the Higg BRM will serve as a catalyst for bringing the industry together towards a standard system for sustainability measurement.” says Sustainable Apparel Coalition Executive Director, Amina Razvi. “This is how we can implement and achieve lasting change.”
A drastic move or a sign of things to come?
Getting rid of brands that don’t comply might seem like a drastic move but Kate Heiny, director of sustainability at Zalando says it is the right one. “We believe this is the right thing to do and we see a crucial link between sustainability and the continued commercial success of our business” she told WWD.
A report from e-commerce personalisation platform, Nosto, found that across demographics, concern about the environmental and ethical impacts of what we wear are growing. Over half of fashion consumers now expect sustainability from brands and nearly 30 per cent would stop buying from a company if they found it wasn’t committed to the cause. This is a shift in public opinion that is putting those that refuse to adapt in danger of going out of business altogether.
“As Europe’s leading online platform for fashion and lifestyle, we want to raise the bar, act first and bring our partners on the journey to address today’s most important issues: climate change, use of resources and worker rights.”
Zalando’s decision marks an important moment for the fashion industry. With so many brands present on the platform, Heiny hopes that using the tool on such a large scale will encourage other companies to do the same and establish a global standard for what sustainability really means.