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’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
The 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’
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.
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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.