Hide Message

Updating the Resource Centre Digital Platform

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is at a critical point in its development. Our digital platform is home to a wealth of information on business and human rights, but hasn’t had a visual refresh for a number of years.

We will soon be updating the site to improve its usability and better serve the thousands of people that use our site to support their work.

Please take an advance peek at our new look, and let us know what you think!

Thank you,
Alex Guy, Digital Officer

Find Out More Hide Message

Women's rights NGO raises concerns about supply chain transparency of German fashion retailer Zalando; co. responds

Zalando Logistics Fulfillment Center Erfurt_Press Material

On 23 May 2018, Dr. Gisela Burckhardt, representative of FEMNET e.V., an NGO focused on the economic, cultural and social rights of women in the garment industry in Asia, gave a speech at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of German online fashion retailer Zalando, pointing to a lack of transparency across Zalando's supply chain. She also criticized the company for not making the results of its auditing process available to the public. Among other concerns that Dr. Burckhardt raised were the lack of childcare in Indian supplier factories and the proportion of women on Zalando's Executive and Supervisory Board, as well as in similar executive positions. We invited Zalando to respond to Dr. Burckhardt's speech. Zalando responded, replying individually to each of the concerns raised. Their response is available below (in the PDF document, the English translation provided by Zalando starts on page 10; Zalando's comments in English are highlighted). Frau Burckhardt responded to Zalando with a rejoinder to which Zalando also replied. Their response also includes relevant screenshots of their website and is available below (the English version provided by Zalando starts on page 4).

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

Item
2 July 2018

Response by Zalando to Gisela Burckhardt's rejoinder

Author: Zalando SE

Zalando is aware of its responsibility to people and planet and, as a young company, we have set ourselves ambitious goals in terms of both our entire supply chain and the transparency and sustainability of the fashion store... Below you will find more information on the topics addressed by Mrs. Burckhardt: sustainability in the shop, transparency and auditing of our suppliers... [W]e are always open for a constructive exchange...

Currently, we already highlight over 6,000 products... This highlighting is offered as an orientation for our customers. For all products in the Zalando Fashion Store we set our minimum requirements for product safety and our ethical procurement standards...

Our customers will find sustainable fashion flagged with "Sustainability" in the shop and can filter their search correspondingly...

On the product side, we give our customers further information and seals to make a good purchasing decision...

We [...] were recognized in the Fashion Transparency Index in 2018 by increasing our score by 11% from 2017...

Verifying that our procurement partners comply with our Code of Conduct and treat employees in our supply chain ethically and fairly is an essential part of our work with our own brands zLabels...

[W]orking conditions are directly linked to product safety and the management systems of a production facility... 

We are also working hard to build closer relationships with suppliers and implement programs to improve working conditions in factories that go beyond auditing and support local factories. Our supplier in Bangalore, India is also actively involved in various programs. Over the last few months we have already been in exchange with Cividep and have agreed to extend the invitation to their training to our supplier. 

Read the full post here

NGO rejoinder
20 June 2018

Reply by Gisela Burckhardt to Zalando's response

Author: Gisela Burckhardt

This is an unofficial summary translation by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. The full document in German is available below.

1. Sustainability - Seals: ... Zalando claims that there are references to sustainability labels on the product.

1. This is not true...
2. One finds no clear explanation, different seals are used...

I welcome these explanations and we will follow Zalando's efforts closely. However, these are only future visions; with a share of 2 per cent sustainable goods overall, reality currently speaks a different language...

Unfortunately, one can not find exactly the explanations for sustainability labels on the product, contrary to what Zalando claims...

2. Transparency: Zalando only publishes the total number of suppliers and factories, not the names of the factories...

3. Audits: When asked about the biggest problem with social audits, Zalando's response is flawed... These problems have nothing to do with social audits and verifying working conditions in the factories...

4. Childcare in Zalando's suppliers in Bangalore: Cividep is organizing a Business Leader Forum in Bangalore on July 19, 2018 and would like to invite Zalando's suppliers to facilitate exchange and provide support. However, [...] Cividep has no names or email addresses... We will therefore send the invitation via Zalando and request that it be forwarded to its suppliers.

Read the full post here

Company response
15 June 2018

Response by Zalando SE

Author: Zalando SE

...We attach great importance to creating transparency and ethical conditions in the supply chain of our young private labels (zLabels), as demonstrated through various measures (social standards, audit programs, Factory Improvement Program, etc). We currently publish the number of suppliers and factories with which zLabels cooperates as well as the sourcing countries and respective volume of goods sourced in percent in the Annual Report...

...In recent years, the team has worked hard to build closer relationships with suppliers and implement programs to improve the factories that go beyond auditing and support factories "on the ground”. We have transparently communicated all capacity-building measures and training programs that zLabels implements in sourcing countries with partners such as ILO Better Work. 20% of zLabels products are currently manufactured in factories participating in one of these programs, which zLabels plans to expand to 25% by the end of this year. Many challenges in this area cannot be solved alone and we therefore actively participate in industry alliances.

We have placed a large focus on creating traceability throughout our supply chain to firstly understand where our products are coming from beyond our Tier 1 suppliers and will continue this work in the coming years. zLabels' goal is to publish the most important strategic Tier 1 business partners that make up a large part of the business by the end of 2019 and to continuously expand this list. We recognize that many of the problems we face are endemic in the fashion industry and that this work marks the beginning of a long journey of collaboration with other brands, organizations, consultancies, NGOs and governments. As a young company, this represents a great challenge for zLabels, which the team is actively taking on...

We are aware of our responsibility towards people and the environment in our supply chain... All suppliers, factories and business partners must sign our Code of Conduct, which is based on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO)... Our procurement standards are available for download on our website: https://corporate.zalando.com/en/corporate-responsibility/downloads-and-contact

Download the full document here

Article
23 May 2018

Speech by Gisela Burckhardt, FEMNET, at Zalando's Annual General Meeting on 23 May 2018 in Berlin

Author: Gisela Burckhardt, FEMNET e.V. (Germany)

This is an unofficial summary translation by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. The full document in German is available below.

"Zalando: What the company writes and what it does", 23 May 2018

1. Sustainability - Seals: ...Zalando, through its portal, mainly offers non-sustainable fashion. Zalando only has a small choice of sustainable products... Zalando does not make use of its popularity and market leadership to increase the share of clothes and shoes produced in a fair manner. Instead, the company focuses on stepping up consumption and related resource use...

2. Transparency: ...Not even tier 1, that is the garment manufacturing stage of the supply chain, is disclosed for Zalando's own brands. Other brands have gone much beyond, such as Esprit, Hugo Boss, Tchibo, Lidl, Aldi, and many more... Question: When will Zalando disclose its supply chain?

3. Supply chain of Zalando's own brands - Auditing: ...Your Code of Conduct mainly contains self-evidence that is already covered by the law... Zalando analysed 506 audit reports: What was the result? The annual report does not include any information on this! Other companies state explicitly where the problems are... 

4. Zalando's suppliers in Bangalore - Lacking childcare in factories: ...FEMNET and our partner in India, Cividep, wrote a letter to Zalando in January 2018. Two of its suppliers have no adequate childcare - which is required by Indian law - in place in their factories...

5. SAC [Sustainable Apparel Coalition] membership: Question: Why is Zalando not member of the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles?

6. Proportion of women in management positions on the Executive and Supervisory Board: There are currently no women on the three-member Executive Board. Only two out of nine Supervisory Board members are women. At the management level below the Executive Board: only 11% - to be increased to 25% in 2022...

Download the full document here