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ASCM Insights

Zebra Technologies’ High Expectations Yield Industry-Leading Impact


Editor’s note: Zebra Technologies received the 2023 ASCM Award of Excellence — Making an Impact. This award honors an organization's commitment to developing policies that integrate responsible practices into daily business operations. Zebra is recognized for its commitment to transparency, integrity, human rights and sustainability. To learn more about the ASCM Awards of Excellence, visit

Digital solution provider Zebra Technologies pursues environmental, social and governance (ESG) activities throughout its supply chain, constantly monitoring for what challenges will arise next and working to maintain its position as a leading responsible business. Importantly, Zebra’s efforts extend to its first- and second-tier suppliers, holding their operations to high standards that promote transparency, integrity, human rights and sustainability.

“We scrutinize and seriously evaluate potential new sources of materials and existing suppliers for performance to our Supplier Code of Conduct,” says Tamara Froese, chief supply chain officer. The Zebra Technologies Supplier Code of Conduct aligns with Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) principals and requires all suppliers to reach a defined level of ethics and compliance, anti-discrimination, humane treatment of workers, and fair compensation. “Our supply chain manages a strict due diligence process conducted to screen new suppliers and existing suppliers not only for compliance but for demonstration of Zebra values and behaviors,” she explains.

Zebra does not tolerate slave labor anywhere in its supply chain and regularly conducts screenings to ensure ethical business practices. As part of this supplier oversight, Zebra requires all of its major manufacturers to obtain RBA One Star Factory of Choice designation, which demonstrates commitment to ethical manufacturing, including completing the RBA validated audit process, addressing all priority findings promptly, employing an RBA-Certified Factory Lead and setting up a forum for workers to provide ongoing input to leaders about the workplace. In addition, the company recently rolled out a self-screening automation and due diligence process, transforming its supplier oversight process and saving time.

In addition, Zebra prioritizes being an employer of choice, and its company culture emphasizes accountability, integrity, teamwork, innovation, diversity and inclusion. Internally, Zebra has nine employee resource groups — Women’s Inclusion Network; Zebra Equality Alliance; Zebra Veteran’s Inclusion Network; Zebras of African Descent; Zebra Hispanic/Latinx Inclusion Network; Zebras of All Abilities; Zebra’s Early Career Inclusion Network; Zebra Asian Inclusion Network; and its newest, Zebra Parents and Caregivers. Together, they foster a more inclusive workplace by connecting employees from across the business to empower, support and learn from each other.

In 2022, the company also added the Green Herd employee network to support grassroots sustainability efforts, inspire a conservation mindset at each Zebra site, and support and develop focus areas for active employee engagement. Zebra encourages volunteerism and philanthropy, and employee engagement is consistently high. The company also offers flexible work options; a robust onboarding process; a variety of learning and development opportunities, including formal learning courses, cross-functional development experiences, mentoring and career shadowing; annual training and certification programs; and various employee health and wellbeing programs to bolster employee engagement and relations.

At the same time, Zebra keeps an eye on the larger business ecosystem and is dedicated to supporting vulnerable populations. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Zebra suspended business in Russia and Belarus in early March following the imposition of U.S. business sanctions that were put in place in response to human rights abuses in Ukraine. Not all of Zebra’s products were covered by the government sanctions, but Zebra put a stop to all its business there. It also terminated its office lease in Moscow and does not have any employees in Russia, although the company still has a legal entity registered in the country.

Zebra also partnered with the American Red Cross to donate food, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to refugee centers in Europe. In addition, its employees donated more than $78,000 to support Ukrainian refugees. The company’s supply chain emergency response unit continues to stay close to all local colleagues in Ukraine to help ensure their health and safety. This has included providing satellite phones and evacuation assistance for employees and their families.

Preserving natural resources

In the spirit of promoting human rights and ethics, Zebra is committed to protecting the natural resources people rely on. “Sustainability is no longer an adjunct consideration, but a permanent fixture in our supplier discussions. And it has a permanent place in our supplier assessment processes,” says Linsey Rosenlund, vice president of sourcing and procurement. When measuring supplier performance, Zebra considers sustainability in partnership with more traditional key performance indicators such as cost, quality and delivery, she adds.  

This sustainability effort starts at the beginning of its supply chain with a commitment to sustainable procurement. In 2021, Zebra started using EcoVadis as its primary sustainable procurement assessment and reporting platform. The EcoVadis scorecard measures company performance in terms of environment, labor and human rights, ethics, and sustainable procurement based on seven management indicators and 21 sustainability criteria.

“To date, we have onboarded and garnered assessment scores for the majority of direct suppliers,” explains Rosenlund. “We expanded the requirements even more in 2023.”

Zebra also collaborates with its suppliers to improve sustainability practices. In its latest EcoVadis Maturity Review, the company’s sustainable procurement program was rated as “industry-leading.” Environmentally friendly products, supplies and packaging are also important parts of Zebra’s sustainability leadership: “We encourage our partners and customers to consider the eco-friendly order fulfillment options we have made available and employ similar packaging-reduction efforts in their own supply chains,” says Jeffrey White, principal packaging engineer. 

Zebra’s packaging engineers are working to reduce the amount of packaging the company uses and increase its use of biodegradable and recycled materials. In 2021, the supply chain lessened its use of foam in packaging content by 1,542 cubic meters annually, roughly equivalent to 15 tractor trailers. In addition, it eliminated excess packaging through packaging redesigns and optimizations and reduced its use of non-biodegradable packaging by an added 3%. Zebra also increased its returnable, reusable packaging by 25% in 2021. In 2022, the supply chain further eliminated 433 cubic meters of foam and realized packaging savings, as well. This year, the team is focused on sustainable innovations, such as using biodegradable retention film to reduce bulk and increase use of sustainable materials.

Zebra also pursues science-based targets for reducing its environmental footprint at its facilities and in its value chain. It aims to reduce its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 50% — including a 25% reduction in energy intensity — and its Scope 3 emissions related to purchased goods and customer use of sold products by 15% by 2030. The company continues to make progress against the targets with focused energy efficiency investments, sustainable product design and engaging suppliers on sustainability. To help meet these targets, the company has completed LED light fixture retrofits across 350,000 square feet of Zebra supply chains sites. Its first supply chain repair site, located in Buffalo Grove, Ill., now uses 100% renewable energy, and the company continues to install electric vehicle chargers across its largest supply chain sites and implement other renewable energy solutions.

Sustainability efforts don’t end at the tail of the supply chain. In 2020, Zebra established a Circular Economy program to buy back certain end-of-life products as well as refurbish and resell certain returned products, giving them a second life. “We continue to grow our circular economy program, including harvesting parts for reuse and responsibly recycling our customers’ end-of life-products,” Froese says. “We have recovered and recycled more than 600 metric tons of end-of-life products.”

A collaborative effort

Zebra’s success in these sustainability areas would not be possible without its supply chain partners’ cooperation. Its tier-one and tier-two suppliers must follow Zebra’s Supplier Code of Conduct and the RBA Code of Conduct, but Rosenlund says this wasn’t a tough sell. “We’ve found that many of our strategic tier-two suppliers also have had ongoing sustainability programs, and, in many cases, we are discussing mutual topics of interest,” she explains. “Some suppliers are teaching us about their sustainability strategies, and we are better for it.”

On average, Zebra’s major suppliers currently use 40% renewable energy, and several suppliers have achieved 80% or greater renewable energy, representing best-in-class performance. Each quarter, Zebra leaders meet with suppliers to discuss the company’s supplier scorecard, which encourages continuous improvement and discussion of packaging, carbon-reduction commitments and energy conservation, renewable energy, energy data transparency, human rights, and ethical behavior. As Rosenlund says, “We are continuing to challenge our suppliers to demonstrate continuous improvement and sustainability leadership.”

About the Author

Jennifer Storelli

Jennifer Storelli is a freelance writer. She may be contacted through