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Published June 3, 2020
Published June 3, 2020

Zalando, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), and Higg Co are collaborating to accelerate a global sustainability standard in the fashion industry. Zalando is the first retailer to use the SAC’s updated version of the Higg Brand & Retail Module (Higg BRM) to make sustainability assessment mandatory for brands selling on its platform.

Committed to creating industrywide change, Zalando will gather comparable sustainability data to understand where the challenges of the industry are, both individually and collectively. Higg BRM data will help Zalando identify trends and explore how to develop solutions to drive meaningful and lasting improvement in collaboration with its partner brands.

The Higg BRM is a tool that provides brands and retailers with a comprehensive way to assess their performance around ethical and environmental parameters such as human rights, fair wages, or carbon dioxide emissions. Users can organize their sustainability priorities based on the results. All SAC brand and retail members will eventually use the Higg BRM to measure their sustainability performance and progress, making it possible for the apparel industry to compare sustainability at brand level.

“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. 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,” says Kate Heiny, Director, Corporate Sustainability. at Zalando.

“Zalando’s decision to require its partner brands to use the Higg BRM will serve as a catalyst for bringing the industry together towards a standard system for sustainability measurement. This is how we can implement and achieve lasting change,” says SAC Executive Director Amina Razvi.

“Sustainability” is a loaded term. It can be difficult to define and even more difficult to understand. There are hundreds of certificates, labels, and initiatives in the market, and the line between where sustainability begins and ends can be blurry.

Brands and retailers may have their own assessments and different goals. The industry has been missing a common method to measure sustainable performance. Higg Co, a stand-alone technology company, was spun out of the SAC in 2019 to address this gap and develop technology behind the Higg Index and its suite of industry tools, including the Higg BRM, to accelerate global supply chain sustainability, beginning with the fashion industry. Higg Co is working with Zalando to support the company and its partners in implementing the Higg BRM.

“The Higg BRM will establish a global standard for fashion brands and retailers to measure and talk about sustainability performance,” continues Kate. “For the first time we will have comparable data at brand level to identify improvement areas and work on solutions collaboratively. The SAC as an independent and globally structured organisation is positioned to drive this necessary change in the fashion industry.”

“More strikingly than ever, the coronavirus crisis has brought to light many of the challenges the industry faces,” says Amina. “Maintaining strong business relationships, leading with values of sustainability and compassion for the health, safety and well-being of workers around the world, and leveraging sustainability as a lens for both recovery and rebuilding will be critical for the industry.”

As one of Europe’s largest online fashion retailers working with more than 2,500 brands, Zalando has the buying power to initiate change and hopefully compel more brands and retailers to implement the sustainability assessment.


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