How Ethical Is Zara?

By June 25, 2018Fashion
woman wearing red zara dress in skate park

Zara, flagship brand of the Inditex Group, has gained a reputation as the ultimate destination for European fashion standards, with more than 2,200 stores in 96 countries, leading to a 3.37 billion euros in profit last year. But just how ethical is Zara? How is this fast fashion giant impacting on people and the planet? Let’s break it down.

Environmental Impact: It’s a Start

Zara InstagramZara’s parent company, Inditex, have started a repair and reuse program called Closing the Loop. The program offers customers the opportunity to drop off their used garments in-store or through the post in order for their clothes to gain a second life. One of Inditex’s goals is that, by 2020, they will no longer send anything to landfills from their own headquarters, logistics centres, stores and factories.

They use the Greenhouse Gas Protocol to guide the measurement and reporting of their carbon emissions and have set an intensity target to reduce emissions from their own operations by 15% by 2020. However, they have no set target for the supply chain. Despite this, reports have actually shown moderate increases in electricity and energy consumption. Whilst Inditex have stated they have water reduction initiatives, and there’s talk of how the company plans to reduce their water footprint through a “Master Action Plan”, there is no evidence of set targets to reduce water wastage.

Labour Conditions: Good

Zara InstagramThe 2018 Ethical Fashion Report – which looks at criteria including payment of a living wage, transparency and worker empowerment initiatives – gave Zara an A+ in policies, auditing and supplier relations, an A for knowing their suppliers, and a B for worker empowerment. Suppliers and manufacturer partners with Inditex are required to follow their Code of Conduct, and their traceability systems allow them to know exactly how their products are made, and where they come from. Inditex also states it has a total ban on child labour, forbidding any employees under the age of 16 to work in their factories, as well as a ban on forced labour and discrimination in the workplace.

Animal Welfare Rating: It’s a Start

Zara’s animal welfare policy includes a strict ban on fur, angora and on stocking products tested on animals. They also claim to source wool exclusively from non-mulesed sheep. Unfortunately, Zara does use leather and down without stating their sources.

The Verdict: ‘It’s a Start’ GoY-Ratings_3

As one of the largest fashion retailers in the world, Zara has an opportunity to lead the way into a sustainable future. Zara has set some good policies for supply chain management, such as their Closing the Loop program. However, their business model is based on an unsustainably high turnover rate. Zara pride themselves on giving consumers the ‘latest fashion trends’ every 13 days! The promotion of such rapid consumption is inherently harmful to both people and planet. We believe that, as a global leader in retail, Zara needs to be setting the standard for sustainability. With many of their sustainability targets set for 2020, it will be interesting to see how Zara will rate over the next 2-3 years.

Discover more ethical fashion in the Good On You app!

Find ethical alternatives

YSTR GoY-Ratings_5


Lou Jumpsuit | Ships internationally from the US

YSTR products are ethically made in L.A, with a firm emphasis on creating fashion with zero waste. Garments are cut to order and provide a range of designs from fun and flirty beachwear to smart casual business wear.

Reformation  GoY-Ratings_4

Girl wearing reformation mia stripped dress

Mia Dress | Ships internationally from the US

Launched in 2009 by Yael Aflalo, Reformation is best known for their knockout party dresses and cute mix’n’match separates. Based in downtown Los Angeles, this fashion brand states that sustainability is at the core of everything they do.

People Tree GoY-Ratings_4

People Tree

Clio Cabel Jumper | Ships internationally from the UK

Stylish, on-trend, and sustainably sourced. People Tree have some beautiful certified organic and Fairtrade pieces that will keep your wardrobe versatile, and your options open.

Armedangels  GoY-Ratings_5

Woman wearing armed angels black tshirt

Laura Petals T-Shirt | Ships internationally

Affordable, ethical and on-trend,  Germany’s Armedangels get a ‘Great’ rating across the board from us.  We love this pretty t-shirt, which is made from sustainable Tencel material.  Armedangels have a range for women, men and kids.

Dorsu  GoY-Ratings_5

woman wearing dorsu navy culotte

Navy Culottes | Ships internationally

In 2008, Kunthear Mov and Hanna Guy joined forces to create fashion brand Dorsu. The label started out as a way to raise funds for a local language school in Kampot, Cambodia. In the nine years since it has grown into a team of 18 dedicated people, providing accessible and reliable ethical alternatives for conscious consumers.


Do you think Zara should be doing more? Or have you tried one of these suggested brands? Let us know!

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Editor’s Note: this article was first published in July 2017 and updated by our editors in June 2018. 

Images via Zara and the brands mentioned.

Maddie Dockrill

Author Maddie Dockrill

Maddie studies science, and is passionate about the environment and sustainability. Her interests include animals, travelling, and sleeping in.

More posts by Maddie Dockrill

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