Skip to main content

Writing a Sustainability Policy

Amid a growing environmental consciousness and a shift towards mindful consumer choices, the fashion sector faces mounting calls for transformation. Each element of the industry, from sourcing raw materials to production and distribution, wields an impact on the environment. To drive enduring change, the pivotal role played by wholesale clothing, and the vital bridge between fashion creators and retailers, cannot be overstated.

Most sustainability policies have a “Guiding Principles” section that sets out the basic values that drive the organization’s sustainability efforts. These values usually focus on protecting the environment, being socially responsible, ensuring economic strength, and acting ethically.

Sustainability isn’t a fixed, easily quantifiable benchmark, but that doesn’t diminish its value. In fact, taking meaningful steps is far more commendable than inaction. Your sustainability policy significantly influences how both individual consumers and wholesale retailers perceive your brand.

From an Ethical Standpoint

One ethical dilemma is modern slavery in the fashion industry, and how it can manifest in various ways, encompassing situations of human exploitation where individuals are compelled to remain due to threats, violence, deceit, abuse of authority, or other coercive methods. Child labor, another ethical dilemma, typically describes work that robs children of their childhood, potential, and dignity while jeopardizing their physical and mental well-being. It pertains to tasks that are perilous and detrimental to children in mental, physical, social, or moral aspects. To prevent unethical conduct, fashion brands, retailers and wholesalers must establish an ethical and sustainable policy.

Sustainability encompasses not only materials but also production methods. Suppliers that adhere to ethical standards ensure that clothing is crafted with utmost regard for workers’ rights, encompassing safe working conditions, equitable remuneration, and the eradication of child labor. By collaborating with such suppliers, retailers align themselves with ethical principles and contribute to the elevation of labor standards in the industry.

The Appeal for Sustainability Statements

The fashion industry, renowned for its swift-paced trends, is under scrutiny due to its environmental footprint. Ethical and environmental concerns have arisen due to excessive resource consumption, elevated pollution levels, and exploitative labor practices. The rise of sustainable fashion movements is a direct response to consumer demands for brand transparency and accountability. Wholesale Clothing Vendors are adapting their offerings to cater to the growing demand for eco-friendly apparel.

Eco‑Friendly Materials

The choice of materials stands as a cornerstone of sustainable fashion. Wholesale clothing suppliers now present a selection of eco-friendly textiles, each boasting unique environmental benefits. Organic cotton, cultivated without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, minimizes soil and water pollution. Hemp, a swiftly renewable resource, requires minimal chemical support. Additionally, recycled fabrics, fashioned from reclaimed textiles or post-consumer waste, alleviate the strain on virgin resources and divert materials away from landfills. By incorporating these materials into their collections, retailers can cater to the needs of ethical-minded consumers.

Slow Fashion and Timeless Pieces

The prevalence of “fast fashion,” characterized by the swift production and disposal of low-cost garments, arises from the fashion industry’s fast-paced nature. The “slow fashion” movement, which emphasizes the creation of durable, high-quality pieces, is gaining ground. Wholesale Clothing Vendors are responding by offering robust and functional apparel. Retailers can advance this trend by curating collections that encourage reduced waste and mindful consumer behavior.

Minimal Packaging and Waste Reduction

Sustainability in the wholesale realm extends to waste reduction and packaging. Suppliers are adopting minimalist, eco-friendly packaging approaches that reduce the usage of plastic and non-recyclable materials. By selecting vendors who prioritize eco-friendly packaging, retailers can make a significant contribution. Additionally, they can decrease excess inventory and reduce the environmental impact of unsold merchandise by basing orders on actual demand.

Local Sourcing and Carbon Footprint Reduction

Global supply chains are often associated with substantial carbon emissions due to extensive transportation networks. Retailers can promote sustainability by sourcing from local wholesalers whenever feasible. Local sourcing not only bolsters local economies and fosters community bonds but also diminishes carbon emissions.

Transparency and Certification

The crux of the matter lies in the selection of wholesale vendors with transparent sustainability policies. Certifications like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Fair Trade serve as markers of strict adherence to environmental and ethical standards. By educating consumers about these certifications, retailers can instill trust and authenticity in their offerings that promote sustainability.

Marketplaces that Created a Sustainability Policy


Amazon, the world’s largest multinational technology company, leads in online retail, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and digital streaming services. Since its inception in 1995, it has evolved from a bookstore into the world’s most valuable company, with 1.2 million employees and a $1.6 trillion market capitalization. However, its remarkable growth is accompanied by controversies, particularly in areas such as environmental sustainability, supply chain transparency, employee rights, and community outreach in its headquartered cities.

In response to this critique, Amazon has been expanding its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts, making it a priority to integrate a positive social and environmental impact into its business model.

  1. Amazon’s Environmental Sustainability Programs – Amazon launched The Climate Pledge, aiming to achieve net-zero annual carbon emissions by 2040. This initiative involves a $2 billion commitment to support products and innovations that promote a low carbon economy. In addition, Amazon established the Right Now Climate Fund, contributing $100 million to fund reforestation projects and other climate change mitigation efforts.
  2. Amazon’s Supply Chain Transparency – Amazon is working toward building a transparent and equitable global supply chain, implementing rigorous requirements aimed at protecting wage equity, vendor transparency, worker safety, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. They conduct regular assessments to ensure supply chain partners adhere to recognized standards.
  3. Amazon’s Employee Hiring and Training Programs – Amazon actively promotes diversity and equality in its workforce, with inclusive hiring practices and ongoing training opportunities. They have allocated $700 million for educational training and offer reimbursement for tuition and fees, helping employees gain in-demand skills.
  4. Amazon’s Community Outreach Programs – Amazon’s community initiatives address critical issues, including housing and food insecurity, education support, and COVID-19 relief. These programs include investments in affordable housing, support for STEM education, and relief efforts to combat the impact of the pandemic.

While Amazon has made substantial investments in Corporate Social Responsibility, they have faced criticisms, particularly related to working conditions at their warehouses during the COVID-19 crisis. Amazon’s response to these concerns, which included the termination of employees allegedly for demanding better protection for warehouse workers, generated further scrutiny. To address these issues, Amazon implemented over 150 process changes to improve employee safety.

Amazon also faces ongoing scrutiny regarding its environmental sustainability policies, with demands for a more aggressive approach. As a result, Amazon has hired a significant number of scientists, engineers, and product designers to reduce their carbon footprint and increase transparency in line with the growing demand for environmental accountability. Balancing growth and responsibility remains a complex challenge for the tech giant.


Zalando, with its bold mission statement, aspires to achieve a net-positive impact on both the planet and its people. This vision entails conducting business in a manner that contributes more to society and the environment than it consumes, going beyond the concept of merely doing less harm. Guided by its three primary focus areas: Planet, Products, and People, Zalando’s strategic framework, known as do.MORE, serves as a blueprint for instigating positive transformation within Zalando and the broader fashion industry.


Recognizing the strain of unsustainable consumption on the planet’s resources, Zalando is actively engaging with industry partners to innovate and leverage cutting-edge technologies as part of the solution. Zalando leads by example, ensuring that the commitments it makes are mirrored throughout its customer and partner ecosystem.

Zalando has pledged to achieve science-based targets aimed at reducing carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement by 2025. This includes an ambitious 80% reduction in emissions from its own operations compared to 2017. By 2023, Zalando will optimize its packaging to minimize waste and promote material reuse, notably eliminating single-use plastics.

In terms of accomplishments, Zalando made significant strides in 2022 by reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 78% compared to the 2017 baseline. The company continues its commitment to utilizing 100% renewable electricity in its operations. Furthermore, Zalando phased out the use of single-use plastic void fill in its Zalando Fashion Store shipments in 2022, resulting in a substantial 37.5% reduction in single-use plastic packaging per item shipped from the Zalando group.


Zalando places its customers at the heart of its mission and acknowledges their inclination toward more sustainable choices. However, the fashion industry often falls short in making sustainability easily accessible. Zalando is committed to providing a clear and uncomplicated path to finding and purchasing sustainable fashion, all while offering inspiration and information in one convenient location. The company seeks to enhance the desirability of sustainability through its new collections.

Zalando’s commitments in this realm include a target to generate 25% of its Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) from more sustainable products by 2023. Additionally, the company is dedicated to applying circularity principles, with the goal of extending the lifespan of at least 50 million fashion products by the same year.

In terms of accomplishments, Zalando significantly expanded its sustainability assortment in 2022, boasting more than 180,000 sustainable products, up from around 140,000 the previous year. Zalando also introduced its Circular Design Criteria in collaboration with on Earth Day 2022. Since 2020, the company has successfully extended the lifespan of over 4 million fashion products, with over 1.7 million of these extensions occurring in 2022.


Recognizing the fashion industry’s shortcomings in human rights and ethical standards, Zalando takes its role as a platform seriously. The company places a strong emphasis on corporate responsibility throughout its supply chain, striving to elevate standards and work collaboratively with partners to address the most critical challenges of our times. Zalando is committed to ensuring its workforce thrives in a rapidly changing world.

The commitments in this area include a pledge to continually raise ethical standards and collaborate solely with partners who share these principles by 2023. Additionally, Zalando is working to support 10,000 individuals in the workforce by providing training opportunities that align with future work requirements by the same year.

In terms of accomplishments, Zalando updated and tested its human rights risk assessment in 2022, with plans for a full-scale rollout to all direct suppliers in 2023. The company also released a new policy statement outlining Zalando’s Human Rights Strategy, setting out principles for human rights due diligence. Since 2020, Zalando has provided skilling opportunities matching future work requirements to 5,016 individuals.



In terms of their environmental impact, ABOUT YOU are steadily progressing toward achieving their science-based targets by 2025/2026, already reducing Scope 1 & 2 GHG emissions by an impressive 53.7%. The company has also played a co-founding role in FASHION LEAP FOR CLIMATE, a collaborative effort aimed at encouraging third-party brand partners to establish their own SBTs. Notably, their net revenue from more sustainable products has increased to 24.6% by the conclusion of FY 2022/2023. Their commitment extends to expanded reporting on their environmental impact, covering areas like energy, water, and waste management.


Turning their attention to the well-being of people, significant strides have been made in strengthening relationships with third-party brand partners, with an impressive 66.6% of them, based on net revenue, sharing sustainability-related data. ABOUT YOU has also made headway in enhancing supply chain transparency, achieving 100% visibility into their Private Label tier 1 factories and 93.9% for tier 2 factories. In the context of their workforce, women now hold leadership positions at a commendable 51.1%, while women in tech roles have increased to 30.3%. Furthermore, the company’s employee reporting now offers insights into how they collaborate with their employees, their efforts to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the details of their ongoing training programs.


In terms of ABOUT YOU’S broader organizational progress, the company has worked to provide a more comprehensive understanding of their governance structure, including their internal collaboration within the ESG matrix organization. This has been complemented by the establishment of dedicated teams for Corporate Sustainability and Private Labels Sustainability, further underlining their commitment to these areas. They have also implemented an internal control system aimed at enhancing the accuracy of their reporting. Recognizing their efforts, their ESG performance has received new and updated ratings from reputable organizations such as Sustainalytics, ISS, and CDP.

Retail Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts



In regards to their environmental initiatives, Michael Ward, the Managing Director of Harrods, emphasized the importance of updating their iconic carrier bags while making a meaningful reduction in waste. Harrods is committed to transforming the way bags are distributed in the store and encourages customers to minimize bag usage. They have received the Carbon Trust Triple Standard certification in recognition of their year-on-year reductions in carbon, water, and waste. The company has made various sustainable changes, such as replacing plastic cutlery and straws with bamboo alternatives, and transitioning to fully recyclable paper cutlery. They’ve also eliminated waste going to landfill and introduced closed-loop recycling streams. Harrods uses a direct water supply with a focus on sustainability and introduced water-efficient measures. Additionally, they’ve implemented a Plastic and Packaging Reduction Policy, launched electric vans, and joined The UK Plastics Pact to reduce plastic consumption.

Where They’re Going

Looking ahead, Harrods is actively working to set targets for reducing their carbon footprint and aims to become a net-zero business across Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 2030. They pledge to eliminate single-use virgin plastic by adopting sustainable packaging materials and promoting recyclability across the business and its supply chain.


Harrods is dedicated to embedding sustainability into their core values and empowering employees to make sustainable choices. They’ve established the Harrods Sustainability Network and launched the Let’s Go! campaign to engage colleagues in their sustainability journey. The company works closely with its leadership team to set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and ensure employees have the necessary training and resources to drive sustainable change.


When it comes to their products, Harrods is focused on supply chain transparency. They are members of Sedex, a platform for sharing responsible supply-chain data, and have introduced responsible-sourcing policies for various product categories. Their plans include extending the supplier transparency program, developing a Supplier Code of Conduct and Material Sourcing Policy, and reviewing products and materials for environmental and social impact. They aim to have all own-label packaging be recyclable, reusable, or contain recycled content by 2025.

John Lewis

Supply Chain and Workers

John Lewis sources own-brand products from numerous countries and has a vast network of supplier factories. They emphasize a commitment to treating every person in their supply chains fairly and ensuring they are appropriately rewarded. The Human Rights Programme aims to uphold fundamental human rights and emphasizes championing worker voice and strong supply chain relationships.

Sustainable Practices

Their strategy focuses on forming mutually beneficial partnerships with suppliers, reducing risks, enhancing worker engagement, and improving working conditions. They aim to develop advanced supply chain programs that reduce risks, encourage worker engagement, and enhance workers’ experiences in supply chains.

Circular Economy and Waste

John Lewis recognizes the importance of transitioning to a circular economy and limiting waste and pollution. Their strategy involves developing solutions to address waste across product and packaging supply chains, raising awareness among customers, and driving industry-wide change. They’ve made bold commitments, including offering ‘buy back’ or ‘take back’ solutions for all product categories by 2025 and halving food waste in Waitrose’s supply chains by 2030.

Sustainable Agriculture

As committed Partners, John Lewis focuses on sustainable and ethical farming practices, supporting farming with nature. Their Waitrose Agriculture plan goes beyond sustainability, aiming to introduce regenerative farming techniques and enhance the natural environment. They’re dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reaching net zero at their Leckford estate ahead of their broader 2035 commitment.

Nutrition, Health & Wellbeing

John Lewis acknowledges their role in promoting healthier, happier lives for customers, Partners, and communities. Their strategy centers around “Healthy for nature for a happier world,” emphasizing the link between a healthy diet and well-being. They aim to inspire healthier choices through products, services, information, and collaboration with government and research organizations.


Established in the UK in 2006, Boohoo is a rapidly expanding fast fashion brand that has seen significant growth in recent years.

The brand’s price range typically falls between $20 and $90 per garment, with sizes available from 2 to 28, albeit limited in variations. Boohoo offers a wide range of clothing for various occasions, from formal to casual and for a night out.

Boohoo has garnered attention for its collaboration with actress Megan Fox, showcasing a trendy California-girl collection on its website. However, while the brand may shine brightly, not all is as it seems.

In a previous evaluation of fast fashion brands’ sustainability and ethics, Boohoo ranked third, receiving an unimpressive score of 10/25. Let’s delve into the sustainability aspects that left us underwhelmed.

Boohoo’s Sustainability Efforts

Boohoo’s sustainability plan, named UP.FRONT, is detailed on both its main website and a separate one for shareholders, offering substantial insights into their goals, a commendable practice within the fashion and beauty industry. However, it’s the specifics that matter.

Clothing – By 2025, Boohoo aims to source all cotton and polyester sustainably, along with half of their synthetic cellulosics. While they intend to continue using leather, down, feathers, and wool, they promise to source these materials following industry best practices. This falls short of adopting sustainable alternatives that have already gained traction in the market.

Boohoo sets a goal for “all materials to be more sustainably sourced” by 2030, although this objective lacks quantifiable details. They also plan to transition to materials such as recycled fibers and organic cotton, among others, but the path forward is unclear. Boohoo partners with the reGAIN app to facilitate item recycling, highlighting their focus on reducing textile waste and extending the lifespan of their products.

Suppliers – Boohoo took steps in 2021 to improve transparency by disclosing supplier and factory lists and outlining purchasing practices. They aim to map their raw materials supply chain for key fibers by 2023 and share key raw material supply chain information by 2025, enhancing transparency. However, issues with suppliers in Leicester, UK, including allegations of low wages, persist.

Business – Boohoo’s business conduct section outlines a goal to halve emissions by 2030, engage in philanthropy, and support local communities. Nonetheless, concerns remain about the sustainability of mass production, especially for a rapidly expanding fast-fashion retailer.

General Sustainability Policy

After reviewing the above retailers and marketplaces and their varying sustainability efforts, a general guideline can be created.

Environmental Sustainability

  • Carbon Emissions Reduction – Commit to reducing carbon emissions, aiming to achieve net-zero emissions in alignment with science-based targets
  • Resource Efficiency – Optimize packaging to reduce waste and promote material reuse, with a focus on eliminating single-use plastics
  • Renewable Energy – Utilize 100% renewable electricity in operations to minimize reliance on fossil fuels
  • Eco-friendly Packaging – Transition to sustainable packaging materials and promote recyclability throughout the supply chain

Sustainable Products

  • Sustainable Assortments – Strive to offer a significant percentage of sustainable products to customers, with a goal to enhance desirability and accessibility
  • Circularity – Commit to extending the lifespan of products through initiatives like circular design criteria, product repair, and recycling
  • Product Transparency – Enhance supply chain transparency by partnering with ethical suppliers and sharing responsible supply chain data

Human Rights and People

  • Worker Rights – Ensure that every person in the supply chain is treated fairly, with a focus on worker safety, wage equity, and gender equality
  • Diversity and Inclusion – Promote diversity and inclusion within the workforce and provide training opportunities to support skill development
  • Human Rights Due Diligence – Implement a comprehensive human rights risk assessment for suppliers and work collaboratively to raise ethical standards
  • Community Initiatives – Engage in community outreach programs addressing issues such as housing, food security, and education support

Circular Economy and Waste Management

  • Waste Reduction – Implement solutions to reduce waste across product and packaging supply chains, emphasizing material reuse and recycling
  • Recycling Programs – Collaborate with customers through recycling initiatives to extend product lifespans and reduce landfill waste

Sustainable Agriculture

  • Support Ethical Farming – Encourage sustainable and ethical farming practices, emphasizing farming in harmony with nature
  • Regenerative Farming – Introduce regenerative farming techniques, enhancing soil quality, water cycle, carbon capture, biodiversity, and resilience to climate change
  • Reducing Emissions – Commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, working towards net-zero emissions


It’s important to note that criticisms of other brands are not as publicized as Amazon. The pursuit of sustainability in the retail industry involves reducing carbon emissions, optimizing resource use, and embracing renewable energy sources. Eco-friendly packaging, responsible sourcing, and sustainable product offerings are key elements. Prioritizing worker rights, diversity, and inclusion, as well as ensuring supply chain transparency, is essential. Engaging in community initiatives and contributing to social well-being are also important. Companies must adapt and collaborate with stakeholders to achieve their sustainability goals and build trust with conscientious consumers.