The fast fashion model must be ditched by the global clothing industry within the next 10 years, according to Zalando chief executive Robert Genz.
Gentz told the Financial Times that his retailer, which has a stock market value of €21 billion and saw sales of around €8 billion last year, plans to use its size and influence to push the wider industry in a more eco-friendly direction.
“The fashion industry is part of a global sustainability problem,” said Gentz, highlighting the fact that around 40 per cent of all apparel in western wardrobes is never worn.
The global fashion industry has been transformed over the last 20 years with the inception of brands including Shein, PrettyLittleThing and Asos.
The production of apparel has more than doubled globally since the turn of the century and accounts for more carbon emissions than the aviation and shipping industries combined, according to data from Greenpeace.
“As a platform, we are more capable of shaping [the industry] than a single brand,” Gentz told the Financial Times.
Zalando is currently working to eliminate single-use plastics, which are widely used by the fashion industry, from its own supply chain and logistics network with the ambition to encourage other brands to follow suit.
The company is also piloting its “care & repair” service in Berlin as well as expanding its pre-owned ranges.
Zalando announced that it had acquired a stake in Finnish recycling company Infinited Fiber, which recycles fibres from used cotton, last month.
Currently, 16 per cent of the fashion retailer’s revenue is generated by the company’s “sustainable” products and says that it wants the figure to rise to 25 per cent by 2023.
Industry sceptics have accused the German company of greenwashin however
Sceptics have accused the company of greenwashing, however. “At the end of the day Zalando profits from the current overconsumption of fast fashion in society,” the sustainability fashion website Ashift wrote this summer in a critical review of the group’s efforts.