Zalando to Remove Misleading Product Sustainability Claims in Deal with EU Commission

Online fashion and lifestyle retailer Zalando has made a series of commitments to remove sustainability flags and icons displayed next to products on its website that could mislead consumers about the environmental benefits of those products, following dialogue with the European Commission and European national consumer authorities, according to a statement by the Commission.

In a statement following the Commission’s announcement, Zalando said:

“After more than a year of intense work on our customer experience and close dialogue with the European Commission, we are pleased to have reached a mutual agreement: Our proposals to improve the communication of sustainability-related information to customers have been accepted and the proceedings against us have been discontinued, subject to implementation of agreed changes.”

The agreement comes as European lawmakers are pursing a series of initiatives aimed at addressing greenwashing, protecting consumers from misleading information by companies and advocating for clearer communication to consumers about companies’ and products’ environmental and social attributes.

Earlier this week, for example, the EU adopted legislation to update the unfair commercial practices directive (UCPD) and the consumer rights directive (CRD) to include green transition and circular economy-related aspects, including rules aimed at making product labels clearer by banning the use of generic environmental claims not backed up with proof and allowing only sustainability labels aimed at making product labels clearer by banning the use of generic environmental claims not backed up with proof. Other consumer-oriented sustainability-focused proposals by the EU Commission underway include the ecodesign regulation, aimed at establishing environmental sustainability requirements for products and improving information to consumers about products’ environmental sustainability, and the directive on green claims, requiring companies to substantiate and verify their environmental claims and labels.

Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice, said:

“Many consumers want to make their consumption greener. It is important for them to have reliable information so they can act upon it and make truly sustainable consumption choices. We must also prevent traders who could try to benefit from consumers’ good intentions. I am glad that a market leader such as Zalando has now abandoned these practices and decided to provide clear and specific information to consumers.”

Under the new agreement with Zalando, the company has committed to a number of actions, including removing the sustainability flag from all webpages, as well as all misleading icons, such as a leaf or a tree, that were displayed next to products, to no longer use the term “sustainability,” or other terms indicating environmental or ethical benefit without justification, and to provide clear product information, such as the percentage of recycled materials used. Zalando has also pledged to provide clear information about products’ sustainability benefits on product detail pages, and to revise its Sustainability Page with webpages with information about product standards and the company’s sustainability-related approaches and strategies, as well as to ensure that its environmental claims are based on significant environmental aspects.

In its statement, the company added:

“As a number of textiles-specific legislations will be developed over the next few years, we encourage EU policymakers to establish a consistent regulatory framework that will enhance not only consumer trust but also consumer engagement, while providing legal certainty for companies. In the meantime, the outcome of our mutual agreement with the European Commission is a first step in providing clarity to the industry on what a compliant sustainability experience could look like.”