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Zalando to overhaul ‘misleading’ green claims on its websites, EU says

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Europe’s biggest online fashion retailer Zalando has committed to overhaul by mid-April the sustainability claims it makes on its web sites after the EU qualified them as “misleading”, the European Commission said on Thursday (22 February).

The retailer’s existing sustainability page will be revised into two detailed pages on product standards and the company’s sustainability strategies, and it will ensure the claims it presents are verifiable and have significant environmental impact.

The platform will also remove sustainability flags and environment-related icons displayed next to the products it offers, and will stop using the term “sustainability” or other terms indicating environmental benefits, instead providing clear information such as the percentage of recycled materials used.

“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,” Zalando said in an e-mail statement.

The company’s commitment comes as the European Union is working on further tightening regulation on environmental claims.

The Commission has proposed a directive on the substantiation of green claims to help consumers make sustainable purchasing choices and stop companies from making misleading claims about the environmental merits of their products.

EU co-legislators struck an agreement on the directive earlier this month, mandating companies to send environmental claims for prior verification by an independent third party before using them.

In case of infringement, companies will face penalties, including confiscation of revenues and “a fine of at least at 4% of their annual turnover,” the European Parliament said in a statement.

Currently, the bloc’s law on unfair commercial practices is more general, with companies obliged to provide “truthful” information to consumers and refrain from “misleading consumers to influence their choices”.

“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,” Zalando added, urging EU policymakers for a “consistent” regulatory framework to provide companies with legal certainty.

Zalando will now need to submit a report on the implementation of the commitments for the EU’s Consumer Protection Cooperation Network to assess how they were implemented and, if needed, enforce compliance.

The announcement follows a meeting last year between Robert Gentz, co-founder and co-CEO of Zalando, to the European Commission where he met with internal market commissioner Thierry Breton.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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