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Zalando’s Latest Moves Target Growing Cohort of Conscious Consumers

Zalando’s marathon sustainability offensive continues apace.

The German apparel e-tailer announced this week that all new products in its Zign private label collection will contain a minimum of 50 percent more sustainable materials (such as cotton sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative) or at least 20 percent recycled content.

All Zign products in its 2020 collection, Zalando noted, are manufactured in the top 50 percent of its suppliers rated for social performance. It also requires the factories to submit environmental data to the Higg Index—a suite of sustainability-assessment tools—to improve performance in areas such as greenhouse-gas emissions, water use and waste.

The collection meets the company’s “robust sustainability criteria,” which Zalando says aligns with industry standards, third-party certifications and best practices concerning social, environmental and animal welfare. Last October, the e-tailer announced do.MORE, a strategy that sets out its “bold vision” to be a sustainable fashion platform with net-positive impact for people and the planet. Its central ethos? “Less bad isn’t good enough.”

“We are very excited to launch Zign’s first ever collection that is fully committed to sustainability and with this extend our more sustainable assortment by over 800 new pieces,” Sara Diez, vice president of the women’s category at Zalando, said in a statement. “Zign is our own sustainable flagship label and further supports Zalando’s do.MORE strategy, focusing on quality and durability while fulfilling our sustainability criteria. With this commitment, we support our customers in making more sustainable choices while acting as a role model for other brands on our platform.”

This fall, the company will be rolling out a “pre-owned” category for customers in Germany to shop previously worn Zalando items in the men’s, women’s and children’s categories. Conversely, customers will be able to sell their items to Zalando after they clear the e-tailer’s quality checks.

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“The view is to make selling as easy as buying, and we think this comes pretty close,” Torben Hansen, Zalando’s vice president of recommerce, said. Hansen recently led a six-month pilot of the Zalando Wardrobe app, which he says has “resonated” with testers in Berlin.

Customers who use the app will see looks specifically curated to their tastes, along with sizing recommendations based on product data and shopping history. They’ll also have a “full menu” of payment options to choose from, including try first, pay later.

“What’s so special about the pre-owned category is that customers will experience the same convenience proposition as they would shopping any other category on the store,” Hansen said. “This is what we want to bring to the pre-owned fashion landscape: an easy and pleasurable way of shopping, great convenience and…the 100-day free returns Zalando customers have been enjoying since we began.”

In July, the e-tailer said it was expanding its “sustainable fashion assortment” with new-to-it brands such as Ecoalf, Girlfriend Collective, Mud Jeans, Swe-s and Stripe + Stare. This was in response to customers who are becoming “increasingly concerned about the future of our planet and want to make more sustainable fashion choices.” To help customers locate these products more easily, Zalando flags them with a “green” label that singles out better-for-the-planet materials such as organic cotton or Tencel.

Zalando has also pledged to transition to total carbon neutrality in all of its operations, including deliveries and returns, by revamping its self-operated properties, parcel transportation and packaging to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit temperature increases to a further 1.5 degrees Celsius. Earlier last year, the company switched to 90 percent renewable energy across all locations; any carbon emissions that remain will be offset through reforestation projects.

In addition, the e-tailer’s customers can choose to “carbon-neutralize” their deliveries by contributing a fee of 0.25 euro ($0.28), including VAT, for each order they place.

“The fashion industry is facing sustainability challenges and we know we have been part of the problem,” co-CEO Rubin Ritter said in October. “Going forward, our aspiration is to be part of the solution.”