Following action by the European Commission and various national consumer authorities, the shopping platform Zalando (selling fashion and lifestyle) has committed to removing sustainability flags and icons displayed next to products offered on its platform. 

The Commission has taken the view that such claims can mislead consumers about the environmental characteristics of the products. 

The changes will be made as of 15 April. In particular, Zalando has committed to:

  • removing the sustainability flag from all webpages.
  • removing all misleading environmental icons that were displayed next to products (such as a leaf or a tree).
  • no longer using the term “sustainability”, or other terms indicating an environmental and/or ethical benefit where they are not justified. 
  • providing clear information about the specific product, for example, a percentage figure of how much recycled material is used. 
  • removing the icons and the term ‘sustainability' from the product search filter and allowing consumers to filter and select products based on specific product qualities. 
  • providing clear and specific information on the product's environmental and/or ethical benefit at the product detail page. 
  • revising its information about sustainability by introducing two new webpages: one with more information on the product standards and one with information about Zalando's sustainability-related approaches and strategies. 
  • ensuring that Zalando's environmental claims are based on aspects which are significant for the environment.

Zalando will also provide a report on how it is implementing the commitments (which sounds a bit like marking its own homework). Based on Zalando's report, the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network will assess how Zalando implemented the commitments , and where necessary, enforce compliance, for example, by imposing fines or removing content.

As it has over 45 million users, Zalando has been designated as a Very Large Platform under the Digital Services Act (although it has appealed this designation) and so is wrestling with new compliance requirements generally.

This development comes as the Council of the EU has adopted the Directive to empower consumers for green transition.  This amends the Consumer Rights Directive and Unfair Commercial Practices Directive to, among other things, increase consumer protection against unfair commercial practices that prevent sustainable purchases.

It will appear in the Official Journal very soon and enter into force on the 20th day following its publication. Member states will have 24 months to transpose it into national law and will have to start applying it within 30 months (this is likely to be towards the end of 2026). Watch this space for more information about the new Directive and how it may affect UK companies.