Sustainable Apparel Coalition

the sac blog

Some Good News: Zalando

June 10, 2020

Zalando Supports Employees and Retail Stores Online During COVID-19 Closures

In response to COVID-19, Zalando, Europe’s leading online platform for fashion and lifestyle, is working closely together with its industry partners to support employees, consumers, and stores during this difficult time. COVID-19 caused many European businesses and stores to shut down for weeks. E-commerce and online shopping will play an important role in stabilizing the European economy and Zalando is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in this effort.

The economic closures in Europe due to COVID-19 have greatly impacted brick and mortar retail stores that rely on in-person shoppers. Through its Connected Retail Program, Zalando connects stores in Germany and the Netherlands with its platform to help them sell products online while stores remain closed in the EU. Starting in April, Zalando waived commissions for new and existing Connected Retail partners and shifted its payment schedule to offer much-needed financial support. Carsten Keller, VP Direct to Consumer at Zalando says, “As a European fashion platform, we want to use our capabilities and resources to help solve the most urgent challenges during this crisis.”

Zalando and its longtime partner Ashoka are also working together to address the short and long-term impacts of COVID-19. Ashoka identifies and supports the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, learns from their experiences and innovations, and mobilizes a global community of changemakers to embrace the new concepts. In a new joint project, Ashoka will scout and identify fifty social entrepreneurs working on projects that address the impacts of COVID-19. Zalando employees will provide tailored support on twenty of the selected projects and highlight them to promote and scale positive change. Kate Heiny, Director of Sustainability at Zalando, says, “We are committed to supporting innovative organizations to fight the crisis and to investing into those communities by volunteering our time, expertise, and connections.”

Zalando and Ashoka partner to scale 20 innovative projects of social entrepreneurs to address the impacts of COVID-19.

Using its network of partners and private label production, Zalando started producing and selling affordable textile masks in all 17 of its markets at the end of April. Heiny says, “We believe that everyone should have access to a mask. Providing affordable textile masks will help people to protect others around them and preserve medical masks for health care professionals.” Masks will be sold at a range of prices, starting at one euro, to make them accessible to as many people as possible. All of the profits from mask sales will be donated to humedica, a German non-governmental organization that can provide food, protective equipment, education, and other support to countries in need. 

Through all of Zalando’s work in response to COVID-19, the company’s priority is protecting employee health. It has implemented numerous safety measures at offices, logistic centers, and production studios, including social distancing, installation of hand sanitizers, and the establishment of a Coronavirus task force. Notably, employees in high-risk groups who can’t work from home were all given paid leave. 

As it navigates this difficult time of COVID-19, Zalando remains committed to its sustainability goals. It is the first retailer to use the SAC’s Higg Brand & Retail Module to make sustainability assessment mandatory for its private labels and partner brands. “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,” says Heiny. “As part of our sustainability strategy, do.MORE, we have made assessments around ethical and sustainable parameters for our brand partners mandatory. The Higg BRM will help us achieve our goal to continuously increase our ethical standards and by 2023 only work with partners who align with them.”

Learn more about Zalando’s COVID-19 efforts.

COVID-19 Impacts & Resources

The SAC launched a new COVID-19 impacts webpage that offers information and resources for the apparel industry to leverage while navigating the current crisis.

Giovanna Davila is the Research & Communications Analyst at the
Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

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