Zuinig of the environment.
Corporate social responsibility often involves the use of more sustainable materials or the reduction of plastic packaging. An equally important theme is the impact of the production of articles on the environment. This impact is invisible to our customers but has a significant effect on the environment and the living conditions of local factory workers. We want to make sure the production of our articles does not have an adverse effect on people or the environment. We now know that the greatest environmental impact lies deeper in our supply chain. Namely where our articles are washed, dyed, and printed. We also call this the wet processes or a wet processing unit. These processes sometimes take place in the factory where our items are sewn together. But they are regularly outsourced to factories with which we have no direct relationship. This means that our influence on the circumstances is more limited. In addition, we notice that - especially in China - a number of locations where dyeing and washing are done are owned by the government. It is therefore more difficult to obtain and check certain documentation.
More sustainable raw materials.
We manufacture our products in a responsible way. We are zuinig of the resources that we depend on. And zuinig of the people who work for us, the environment, and society. That's why we are increasingly using more sustainable materials. That means we work with raw materials grown in ways which are less harmful for the environment or with residual materials from previous production runs. The sustainability of the most common materials in our collection, including our informative tool on how to define a sustainable material, can be read here.
For 2021, we set ourselves the goal of having the total textile collection consist of 35% more sustainable materials. We passed this goal and ended up with 39% more sustainable materials in the total textile collection. We have continued this growth for 2022 and have arrived at 53% more sustainable materials in the total collection. The target was 50%. For 2023, we will increase our goal to 70% more sustainable materials.
In 2022, 74% of our cotton consumption consisted of more sustainable options (than conventional cotton). This is an increase of 15% compared to 2021. For 2023, we aim to have at least 90% of our cotton come from more sustainable sources.
You can recognize our products containing more sustainable materials by the green ECO label. Products produced with at least 50% more sustainable materials carry this label.
Cotton is our main raw material. We use it for our underwear, our basics, our baby bodysuits and our household textiles. More and more, we are choosing organic cotton. No synthetic pesticides are used during the growth and production of organic cotton. In this way, we take people and the environment into account.
This product is made from both recycled cotton and recycled polyester. The residual material from a previous production was used for the production of this item. Think of textiles or plastic bottles. The material is reduced to fiber level after which it is spun again and used as yarn. This saves a lot of waste.
This product is made of sustainable viscose. The production of sustainable viscose requires less water than conventional viscose.
Undyed cotton looks slightly different in color than white cotton, this is because undyed cotton is not dyed or bleached. As a result, less water and energy are needed during the production process. Also, no chemicals are used. We also use organic cotton for these articles. Both are better for the environment.
In order to make the collection more sustainable and to improve the cotton cultivation process worldwide, we have been working with Better Cotton since 2015. Better Cotton is an organization that works worldwide for better conditions in the cotton sector. The focus is on social conditions and environmental impact. Better Cotton is sourced via a system of mass balance and is not physically traceable to end products (read more: bettercotton.org/massbalance).
In recent years we have been using more and more Better Cotton. In 2022 we already have 71% of all our cotton through Better Cotton. This was still 53% in 2021. We want Better Cotton to become the standard and replace conventional cotton in our collection. Our share of Better Cotton will therefore increase in the coming years. Once Better Cotton becomes our standard, we will also have to review our target for more sustainable cotton.
Because we buy cotton through Better Cotton, farmers have made an estimated 2.0 million euros* more profit. In 2021 this was still an estimated 1.4 million euros. Also, because we buy cotton through Better Cotton, an estimated 4.6 billion liters of water have been saved. In 2021 this was still an estimated 3.2 billion liters of water and in 2020 this was an estimated 2.3 billion liters of water.
*Better Cotton farmers' profits increase for several reasons: usually due to higher yields and/or better use of resources (such as irrigation water, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers)
In order to reduce our environmental impact deeper in the chain, it is important first to gain more insight into the current situation at our suppliers. Then we can take steps together to implement improvements. Since 2021, we have had a new approach to getting an understanding of our suppliers. We request their information and set clear requirements for our dyers and laundries. First of all, every supplier must use at least one wet processing unit with a water purification system. In 2021 this was the case with 95% of our suppliers and at the end of 2022 with 99%. Unfortunately, we did not achieve our target of 100% - due to an exception of two suppliers. One direct supplier whose wet processes take place on-site was still installing a water purification system. It is expected to be operational in 2023. Our supplier keeps us informed by occasionally sending videos and photos. The other supplier was unable to find a replacement location with a water purification system in time without compromising the quality of the product. This supplier has been asked to find a new location with a water purification system in 2023. This is important in order to prevent water pollution in the immediate vicinity. In addition, we request even more documentation and set even more requirements for our dyers and laundries. Such as annual health & safety training, signing the MRSL (Manufacturing Restricted Substances List), supplying various test reports to assess the quality of the treated water, and certificates that demonstrate that waste has been processed in a responsible manner.
In 2022, we requested and checked the supporting documents for this. In particular, we wanted to find out how realistic our requirements are in practice. Next year we will conduct a risk assessment to identify the most important risks at our suppliers and further analyze and assess the data we have collected this year. Ultimately, we want to translate the results into a rating for suppliers. Our purchasing department can make use of this. 99% of our suppliers operate at least one washing and dyeing facility with a water purification system. Because some suppliers use multiple facilities, a total of 187 have been registered, of which 96% have a water purification system. In order to determine the quality of these facilities, the following parameters, among others, have been set: test reports to assess the water quality after treatment, participation in health & safety training, signed MRSL, and a certificate that waste is processed in a responsible manner. We have now received these substantiations for 64% of the facilities. Ultimately, we hope this percentage can be increased: we want to assess the suppliers on the basis of the information collected and link this to a ranking. We hope that our direct suppliers will then be able to do business more quickly with wet processing units that do meet our requirements.
Approach environmental impact roadmap.
In Europe, the Green Deal has been adopted to combat climate change. The aim is that by 2030 we have reduced CO2 emissions by 55% compared to 1990 and Europe must be climate neutral by 2050. At Zeeman, we want to better map our environmental impact. An important first step is to gain insight into our CO2 impact. We have therefore drawn up an environmental impact roadmap. This year we discussed our environmental impact roadmap with various parties. Our starting point was to find an instrument with which we can scale up quickly. In other words: not just collecting data, but putting our time into reducing our impact. We want to be able to convert the results into CO2 impact and costs. This gives us something to hold onto in our discussions with purchasing. At the end of the year, we discussed this with bAwear, Impact Institute, and MODINT. Together with bAwear we will collect the data in our supply chain and supplement it with secondary data. This is necessary for a product impact calculation. Our goal for 2023 is to process 20% of our collection in this instrument. The Impact Institute will then make a cost calculation and provide advice. We hope to be able to compare and exchange data with other retailers via MODINT. We then have to spend less time collecting data and can focus more on what really matters: reducing our environmental impact. We also want to gain more insight into the environmental impact of our organization. Next year, we will be doing a base measurement of our total impact with the Impact Institute. This includes logistics, our stores, and our service office. Our goal is to set concrete targets so that we can keep track of the reduction of our total environmental impact.
The environmental impact of a garment is 80% determined during the design process (source). That is why we drew up a design practices guide together with the styling team last year. The document provides our stylists with tools to make more conscious choices when designing by, for example, reducing the use of materials (cutting waste) in the manufacturing process. In addition to our focus on more sustainable materials, we want to look at the lifespan and possibilities for recycling a piece of clothing, for example. We also want to make more conscious use of trims and accessories (such as buttons and Velcro) and packaging. As part of this process, New Order of Fashion (NOoF) and Frankenhuis organized a training course for our stylists and the CSR team. It was about innovations and the possibilities for recycling. The knowledge gained has also been incorporated into the document. The plan is to sit around the table with Styling, Purchasing, and CSR in 2023. We want to draw up a number of sustainability objectives for the coming season for each product group. We will also regularly review the design practices, as developments around this subject are moving fast.
The buyers at Zeeman play an important role in making our range more sustainable. They have had a KPI % sustainable materials since 2022.
In collaboration with Het Goed, we have been selling secondhand clothing in 6 Dutch stores and 2 Belgian stores under the name Resale since June 2021. In 2022 we sold 33.673 second-hand items. In 2021 this was 20.605 items. In addition, we offer our customers the opportunity to turn in used clothing to us in all of our Dutch stores. With this innovative concept, we want to give used clothing a second life. By actively promoting a collection of used clothes, we hope to make customers aware of the fact that clothing should be collected separately and not disposed of in general waste, as is still the case 55% of the time.
Het Goed has its own sorting centers that specialize in sorting collected clothing. They also give hundreds of people the chance to gain work experience in an accessible way every day. So this collaboration also has a strong social component. Everything we collect we donate to Het Goed. We give good-quality clothing that can still be used a second chance in, among others, Het Goed’s thrift stores and in our own Resale range in one of six of our stores. And whatever is no longer good or beautiful enough for direct reuse is recycled as completely as possible. So something new can be made from it.
In 2023 we received the Circular Award Business Large for our Resale project with Het Goed.
Read more about Resale: https://www.zeeman.com/nl/resale
Sustainable on the go.
To reduce our impact on the environment, we have been keeping an eye on our energy consumption,
transportation, and product distribution for years. This fits with our Zeeman culture: we like to get things done without being complicated about it. So when we see that something could be better in the area of sustainability, we tackle it ourselves right away.
To reduce our impact on the environment, we are smart about the transportation and distribution of our products. Transportation from the country of origin to the Netherlands virtually always takes place by ship. This is less harmful than transport by airplane. From Rotterdam - where the sea containers arrive from East Asia – we ship our products to the transshipment terminal in Alphen aan den Rijn via inland waterways. The terminal is located close to our distribution center. This is an environmentally friendly alternative to road transport. We also want to be at the forefront of logistics management. This enables us to systematically drive fewer miles by loading our trucks as fully as possible. As a result, a store only needs to be stocked twice a week. The fewer rides we make, the less exhaust we release into the air.
In 2021 we started with the reorganization of our distribution center and invested in a mechanized sorting and storage Shuttle-system. This not only helps increase our sorting capacity but also makes our process more efficient. This saves us time both in the distribution center as well as in the transport of our goods to the stores. This project will be completed in 2023.
A zuinig Service Office.
On the roof of our distribution center lies a large solar array. With 8,654 solar panels, we generated 1,3 megawatts of electricity in 2022. This is sufficient to meet the energy needs of our service office and distribution center.
In 2018, we eliminated disposable water bottles. We signed the Plastic Free Pledge, joining Dopper's PET-Free Movement. We switched out plastic water bottles for sustainable Dopper drinking bottles. To encourage drinking tap water, we provide bottle-filling points at the service office so that everyone can fill up their reusable water bottle at any time.
Sustainable in our stores.
We do not indulge in unnecessary luxury in our stores. We do invest in LED lighting. At the end of 2019, 67% of our stores had LED lighting. At the end of 2020, 66% and in 2021, 910 branches (out of 1,303) were equipped with LED. This is therefore 70%. LED lighting consumes less than a third of the energy required by traditional fluorescent tubes. The 910 branches with LED lighting thus ensure a lower energy bill. Good for the environment and the wallet.
In 2022, we invested in improving and expanding our stores, by introducing a new store concept. The quality of the store base has improved by renovating properties and closing underperforming stores. At the end of 2022, there were a total of 1,313 Zeeman stores. In the new stores, we work as much as possible with recyclable promotional materials such as paper and cardboard and as little as possible with plastic. The furniture can be used flexibly and can also be used in the existing formula. In the new store concept, the products are presented better, which benefits the product itself.
About 45% less kWh used at each store compared to fluorescent lighting.
LED tubes last over four times longer than ordinary fluorescent tubes, among other things because they are made of durable, recyclable synthetic materials.
We have been separating plastic, paper and other waste in our stores for many years now. All packaging is recovered, and everything is recycled at the distribution center. Special presses are used to prepare the paper and plastic for reuse.
Working responsibly with chemicals.
We are aware that many chemicals are used during the production of our clothing. Think of chemical pesticides to grow conventional cotton or the many chemicals that are used to dye clothing. We want all substances used to make our products to be safe for people and the environment. That is why we have had a Restricted Substances List (RSL) since 2011. This list contains the limits for chemicals in finished products. We will constantly update this list based on new developments. In addition, last year we offered our wet processing units an e-learning course from Nimkartek to follow. This one was about working responsibly with chemicals. 87% of suppliers with one or more active wet processing units have completed the training by the end of 2022. Topics covered included personal protective equipment (PPE), the safe storage of chemicals and the mandatory information to be recorded in documentation (such as in Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)). We believe that together with our suppliers we are learning how to reduce our environmental impact. This e-learning gives us important knowledge and tools.
Better Mill Project.
The Better Mill project is a partnership between textile companies, wet-processing suppliers (e.g. dyeing, washing, printing), and Solidaridad, in Bangladesh. The focus is on exploring where the environmental impact at each supplier can be improved. For example, we are reducing energy or water consumption, or working more safely with chemicals. Five sites (direct factories or one of their sub-suppliers) of Zeeman are participating in this project. Other companies participating are America Today, Hunkemöller, and G-star. Within this project, not only are the selected suppliers evaluated, but Zeeman’s wet-processing policies are also considered. In 2022, for example, we received advice from a consultant on our approach and the wet-processing requirements we had established. We will continue to improve our practice. For instance, we want to perform a risk assessment and eventually translate the data we receive from our suppliers into a supplier rating. In addition, an assessment of the five selected suppliers started in early 2023. From this, a recommendation report for each supplier will result. In consultation with suppliers, we will make improvements and set and tighten targets in the second phase of the Better Mill project. Ultimately, we hope to apply the approach and insights that this project will give us to our other wet processing units.
Zeeman avoids using animal-derived materials for its products as much as possible. In the limited assortment of products wherein we use animal-derived materials (ex. Blend of wool in our yarn), we follow the five freedoms as stated by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee. These freedoms are also described in our Animal Welfare Policy. This policy is part of the two-way code of conduct that we sign with all of our suppliers. In this way, we make sure we all understand the expectations we hold for the welfare of animals.
Read our Animal Welfare Policy here.