Zara, a high street fashion chain, is intending to make all its collections from 100% sustainable fabrics. Its parent company, Inditex, announced that all polyester, cotton or linen will be organic, recycled or sustainable by 2025. Inditex is the third-largest apparel company in the world, according to Forbes, and Zara accounts for 70% of its sales.
WWD reports that this commitment is a first from an international high street brand. Pablo Isla, Inditex’s Chief Executive, announced the new target at the annual general meeting and the Spanish retail company will extend its goal to its other brands too.
Marta Ortega, daughter of Inditex founder, Amancio Ortega, says the company is focused on making clothes in a sustainable way and limiting the impact on the environment. It keeps working on new technologies and new ways to use recycled materials.
It helps create new fabrics that designers, as well as others in the industry, can work with in the future. She believes it is the right thing to do from a moral and commercial perspective.
What the company has done thus far
In 2001, the company signed the United Nations Global Compact, showing its commitment to sustainability. This involved a series of five-year strategic environmental plans. It aligned itself with developing and using responsibly and ethically produced fabrics, making stores and facilities eco-efficient, recycling packaging, developing an in-store recycling donation program, and launching the eco-conscious Join Life collection.
The Join Life collection features a number of contemporary styles made from sustainable materials such as recycled wool, Tencel and organic cotton. Tencel is produced from wood cellulose and forests are carefully managed. The pieces may be produced from sustainable materials but they have all the characteristics expected of Zara styles.
From 2016 to 2018, the Dow Jones sustainability index named Inditex as the most sustainable retailer. This was due to its commitment to championing human rights along the value chain, reporting transparency and operational eco-efficiency.
A different operating model
Pablo Isla says the company is the opposite of a fast-fashion company, although it is found on nearly every main street in the world. He stresses that it has a different operating model involving making its own patterns, keeping low inventory, sourcing, and manufacturing locally and not promoting in-store.
Inditex partners with charities like Red Cross to redistribute used stock. Since 2015, it has collected over 34,000 tonnes of used stock and installed clothes banks in numerous stores. Customers can drop off used clothing, accessories, and accessories.
A service that picks up used clothes from customer’s homes has worked effectively in Shanghai, Spain, and Beijing and is being extended to New York, Paris, and London.
A customer-centric approach
Customers are increasingly demanding ethical production practices from fashion companies. They also want responsible retailing in terms of not keeping excess stock levels and disposing of unwanted garments in the right way. In the UK, a government report, Fixing Fashion, proposed banning the incineration or sending of clothes to landfills if they could be used or recycled.
Simon Psirac, one of the designers at Zara, says it is quite clear that customers want to make environmentally conscious decisions in every aspect of their lives.
Eva Vidal, another designer at Zara, says that sustainability naturally became part of all their discussions and they started working together with suppliers to learn about options and research new processes, materials and fibers. The idea of playing a role in spearheading change and finding a new way of approaching business began to gain traction.
The designers are becoming more conscious of ensuring that the pieces they design are embued with qualities of durability and timelessness.
Other green goals
Pablo Isla wants the company to be a force for change in the whole sector. He says that everyone at Inditex is involved in the task of sustainability and suppliers are being engaged successfully too.
Other green goals of the company are to make Zara stores “eco-efficient” by reducing carbon emissions, saving energy and minimizing waste. It wants 80% of its energy from offices, stores and distribution centers to be clean energy by 2025.
By 2020, it is committed to Zero Discharge of hazardous chemicals for its supply chain. By 2023 it will eradicate single-use plastics and complete its adoption of green-only packaging. It will also ensure the use of 100% sustainable cellulose fibers.
The move to sustainable fashion
Sustainable fashion is becoming a trend in the industry and other fashion retailers such as H&M and Uniqlo are also well known for their green initiatives. H&M’s Conscious collection debuted in 2011 and employs recycled polyester, organic cotton and Tencel as materials.
The impact of the fashion industry on the environment needs to be taken seriously and companies like Inditex are leading the way.