German Zalando and Dutch bol.com are building on their sustainability: while the former says its operations are now completely climate neutral, the latter has opened a separate shop including only sustainable products, because "sustainability is a commercial success".
Sustainable alternative for Christmas
In view of the upcoming holidays, bol.com is launching an online section that only includes sustainable products. All 6500 items have an independent sustainability label or are produced by social entrepreneurs. Refurbished items are also available in the webshop. "We hope to be able to expand the sustainable range with tens of thousands of items in the coming years. By 2022, we want to offer a sustainable alternative in every possible category, from children's clothing to personal care products", managing director Huub Vermeulen explains.
In order to achieve this, the platform is looking at collaborations with both new and existing suppliers and sales partners. Within the 'personal care' category, a trial is already underway that allows suppliers and external sellers to enter the the sustainable characteristics and labels of their products in a database. "In a webshop, it is often difficult to determine whether an item has been produced in a fair and sustainable manner, while in physical stores certifications on the packaging are often clearly visible to consumers", the Dutch retailer says.
Climate neutral, including delivery
The extent to which bol.com delivers its sustainable products sustainably, is quite another question - although one of which the company seems to be well aware. By 2025, the Ahold Delhaize subsidiary wants to make it possible to shop in a climate-neutral way; in other words: the total of emissions per package should be 0 grams. "From the moment items arrive at the fulfilment centre, to the delivery to the customer's front door, and everything in between" should become carbon-neutral.
Zalando, too, is announcing ambitious sustainability targets: the company promises it operates in a completely climate-neutral manner as of today. 90 % of all energy used at every one of the fashion retailer's locations is derived from renewable energy sources, and remaining emissions are now fully offset. The German clothing giant is not yet completely emission-free, but the online shop is already experimenting with using electric cars to make deliveries.
"Sustainability is a commercial success"
Zalando also wants to get rid of all plastic packaging in three years' time, including those products that come from external brands. The private label ZIGN will be completely sustainable as of the coming spring collection, says CEO Rubin Ritter, and is also aiming to be socially, environmentally and animal-friendly by that point. From now on, it will be even easier for conscious consumers to find sustainable clothing on the site, with the introduction of seven new search filters. These now include sustainable leather and responsible wool.
Sustainability is a commercial success, Ritter admits in a press statement: over the past year, search terms related to sustainability used at Zalando increased by 66 %. According to the company, two out of three customers also believe that brands which promise to become sustainable, are more trustworthy. "We believe it will be a competitive advantage in the future", Ritter says. However, there is still the question over the sustainability of the less than perfect working conditions found in the distribution centres of online retailers.