How Ethical Is Zara? - Good On You
15 Apr

How Ethical Is Zara?

Zara, flagship brand of the Inditex Group, has gained a reputation as the ultimate destination for European fashion, with nearly 3000 stores in 96 countries, and billions of dollars worth of profit each year. But just how ethical is Zara? How is this fast fashion giant impacting people, the planet, and animals? Let’s break it down.

Environmental Impact

When it comes to the planet, Zara gets an “It’s a Start” rating from us. Zara’s parent company, Inditex, has 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 – which is a good initiative.

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

It is important to remember that Zara has fast fashion traits such as on trend styles and regular new arrivals. This business model is inherently harmful to the environment.

Labour Conditions

Zara scores “It’s a Start” based on the 2018 Ethical Fashion Report which looks at criteria including payment of a living wage, transparency, and worker empowerment initiatives. Suppliers and manufacturer partners with Inditex are required to follow its Code of Conduct, and it traces most of its final and second stages of production.  It also implements some worker empowerment initiatives such as collective bargaining or rights to make a complaint.

However, it has made little to no progress on payment of a living wage across its supply chain. For a company with such a huge profit margin, this simply isn’t good enough!

Animal Welfare

Zara’s animal welfare policy includes a strict ban on fur, angora and on stocking products tested on animals. It also claims to source wool exclusively from non-mulesed sheep. Unfortunately, Zara does use leather and down without stating their sources, so we again rate them “It’s a Start” here.

Overall Rating: It's A Start

Rated: It's A Start

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 the Closing the Loop program. However, its business model is based on an unsustainably high turnover rate. Zara prides itself on giving consumers the ‘latest fashion trends’ every 13 days! The promotion of such rapid consumption is inherently harmful to both people and the planet. We believe that, as a global leader in retail, Zara needs to be setting the standard for sustainability. With many of its sustainability targets set for 2020, it will be interesting to see how Zara will rate over the next 2-3 years.

Editor's note

This article was first published in 2017 and was updated in 2019. Feature image via Zara, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world's most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. Use our Directory to search more than 2,000 brands. To support our work, we may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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