Human rights, health and safety of workers, product safety and environmental protection are important topics for zLabels. We want our customers to know that the goods we sell have been produced in an ethical, safe and environmentally conscious manner. We also recognize the responsibility we share with the fashion industry to strive for the highest ethical standards across our supply chain.
At zLabels we want to rethink how we design and make our products, to improve lives and reduce waste. For each of these areas, we have identified key focus topics and developed a roadmap to 2020 with corresponding policies and targets.
As part of the Zalando Group, we support a range of
initiatives related to diversity, inclusion, refugee
integration and community engagement including spending 2
days each year volunteering with social projects in and
around Berlin. We also work with the Zalando Corporate
Responsibility team on topics such as responsible sourcing,
supply chain transparency and sustainable packaging, which
you can read more about in the
Zalando Group’s latest Annual Report.
DRIVING BETTER JOBS & WORKER WELL-BEING
Our vision is a supply chain where workers are safe, empowered and financially secure, and we aim to work with business partners who adopt a responsible approach to people and the environment.
We expect our business partners to commit to, and work towards our Zalando Group Code of Conduct, which sets the minimum standards we expect all our business partners and their subcontractors to comply with, such as minimum wage, freedom of association and the absence of forced labor, child labor and discrimination. It is based on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and was most recently updated in 2017.
Due to the size and variety of our product range, zLabels does not own any supply base or factories, but instead we collaborate with sourcing partners and agents with years of technical expertise in their respective areas. We currently cooperate with 272 sourcing partners and 450 factories across 24 countries, and checking that our sourcing partners comply with our Code of Conduct and treat the workers in our supply chain ethically and fairly is a crucial part of our work at zLabels.
In 2017 our Ethical Trade team evaluated 506 third-party audits and our team in Hong Kong carried out an additional 68 visits in person. We recently reviewed our audit program to include more robust criteria, and further focused the types of audits we accept to reduce audit fatigue in our factories.
We use a country risk matrix to help focus our work, and in 2017 we added extra requirements for factories from 12 different countries. As well as our Code of Conduct, we have additional policies on migrant workers and homeworkers and a list of prohibited activities to which our business partners must adhere at all times. Gaining transparency throughout the supply chain is an important focus for us and in 2017 we began a mapping exercise for tier 2 processes, in order to track and trace our sourcing partners along this tier.
At zLabels we are committed to improving working conditions in our supply chain and realize that to achieve this, we need to go beyond auditing and support factories on the ground. We work as collaboratively as possible with other brands, organizations, trade unions, NGOs, sourcing partners, government stakeholders, and through programmes such as the Social and Labor Convergence Project, to drive improvements through the industry together.
Our Factory Improvement Programme (FIP) now spans seven programs and initiatives across eight countries, working with four independent partners. 20% of our products are sourced from participating factories and we aim to increase this to 25% in 2018. Last year we were proud to receive ‘Partner’ member status from the International Labor Organization (ILO) Better Work Program and we also joined two Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) working groups in Mauritius and Turkey.
RETHINKING DESIGN AND MATERIALS
We have a responsibility to improve the clothes that we make and are committed to increasing our offer of sustainable products. We started to develop our first sustainable collection in 2016, which comprised 46 styles across five different brands and was certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the Global Recycled Standard (GRS). In 2018 our organic cotton range for babies, STUPS Organic, became fully GOTS certified and we recently launched a new 60-piece sustainable collection as part of our popular womenswear brand mint&berry, made from more environmentally-friendly materials including Tencel, Lenzing viscose, linen and cotton certified to the Organic Content Standard.
In addition to developing our capsule collections, we have also taken some sizeable steps forward to scale up our sustainability efforts across the entire zLabels brand portfolio. In 2017 we joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and submitted our first results to the SAC’s Higg Index to benchmark our performance against other leading brands. To help us on our journey of sourcing more sustainable cotton, we also became members of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future. By the end of 2018 we aim to source 15% of our total cotton volume as Better Cotton, rising to 30% in 2019.
We are participating in the European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP) and have a minimum target of 10% in carbon, water and waste savings by 2019 by switching to more sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, TENCEL® / lyocell and recycled polyester. We are working closely with our Design and Sourcing teams to change our buying habits from conventional materials to more environmentally-friendly alternatives, and are investing in training delivered by external experts including sustainable fashion organization MADE-BY and the University of Santiago de Compostela on topics such as recycled materials, wet processing and trims.
zLabels is committed to protecting the world’s forests through our approach to sourcing man-made cellulosic fabrics, including rayon, viscose, lyocell, modal and other trademarked brands. Together with the non-for-profit organization Canopy and our sourcing partners, we are working towards eliminating the sourcing of wood pulp from ancient and endangered forests across our supply chain. You can find out more about our policy here.
Our Animal Welfare policy forms an important part of the work we do and is based on Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes and the standards of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Our brands have always been fur free and we forbid the use of any type of rabbit wool such as angora and products made from exotic or endangered animals. In 2017 we began the process of implementing the Responsible Down Standard across all our brands and developed a completely new test for animal protein together with our partner laboratory in Spain, which definitively certifies products as vegan.
Vegan products are important to our customers and in 2017 we launched 27 additional vegan shoe styles under our Even&Odd label, which we intend to expand significantly over the next few seasons. We are very proud that one of our shoes was selected as the winner of PETA Germany’s Vegan Fashion Award and are collaborating closely with PETA on the roll-out of our vegan strategy to other brands in our portfolio.
Whilst leather offers some important benefits in terms of product quality and lifespan, we are aware that the production process is associated with many complex social and environmental issues. In 2017 we began investigating our leather supply chain past Tier 1 and became members of the Leather Working Group, which rates tanneries under its Gold, Silver and Bronze system. We have now identified five strategic tanneries / sourcing partners that we will work with over the coming years to improve environmental standards and the lives of the many people supported by the leather industry.
PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
As members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, we are actively gathering data on the environmental and social performance of our factories and in 2017 we submitted our first results to the SAC’s Higg Index to benchmark our performance against other leading brands. Minimizing water and waste is one of our focus areas and by using the Higg Index we will be able to measure the sustainability performance of our sourcing partners and their factories.
Collaborating with the rest of the industry is important to us and we are constantly exploring better solutions to common challenges. We regularly receive advice from the University of Santiago de Compostela on a range of sustainability-related topics and are actively using open-source tools such as the SAC’s Materials Sustainability Index , MADE-BY’s Environmental Benchmark for Fibres and Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report to make more informed decisions.
All our sourcing partners are required to avoid the use of possible harmful substances to ensure that our products meet legal minimum safety standards, such as the EU systems REACH and POP. In addition to regularly testing our finished products to ensure they are safe to wear, we want to continue to reduce the volume of harmful chemicals used along the supply chain, which means less risk to customers, workers and the environment.
With the support of the University of Santiago de Compostela, TÜV and Bureau Veritas, we have reviewed and updated our standards on restricted substances to ensure that they were following state of the art science. Our restricted substances list (RSL) now contains more than 300 chemicals and during 2017 we conducted approximately 12,000 chemical tests on our products, improving the failure rate in most critical parameters by 28% compared to 2016.