Although this dress is a part of Mango’s “Committed Collection” that aims to use more sustainable fabric alternatives and practices, it’s still another piece in the fast fashion world.
Inspired to share Mediterranean style and culture, Mango has been continuing to emerge as a go-to brand for fashion lovers. Along with a comprehensive array of alliances and initiatives, Mango has launched a Commitment Collection that aims to lessen their environmental impact. Although Mango has taken their sustainability efforts to the next level in the fast fashion world, they’re still in it. As long as they continue to mass produce clothes that emit over 1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions and use fabrics that produce waste and expose habitats and people to harmful chemicals, there will always be a need to do more.
How do pieces make the cut for Mango’s “Committed Collection”? First, they have to meet the minimum number of Global Recycled Standard and Recycled Content Standard characteristics. These include the garment being made of 20% recycled content, labor protections, ethical sources, appropriate supply chain management, and an environmental impact assessment for product manufacturing. Second, they have to have a minimum of 30% of fabrics with a lower environmental impact, such as focusing on water savings, emissions/energy savings, or reduction of chemical substances.
As part of Mango’s Committed Collection, this Floral Print Dress is made of 100% viscose, a semi-synthetic type of rayon fabric. Its lightweight, soft, and durable feel yet cheaper cost has earned its position as the best alternative to silk. It comes from trees, extracting cellulose or wood pulp that is dissolved into chemicals and spun into fine threads. As a plant-based fiber, viscose comes from nature but also pollutes it as well.
The process of turning wood pulp into viscose can be toxic because of the chemicals used to break it down, such as carbon disulfide: a harmful chemical linked to heart diseases, leukemia, Parkinson's, and stroke. Given viscose’s rising popularity in the fashion industry, exposure to these immense amounts of harmful chemicals puts workers that extract and process cellulose at risk. Habitats aren’t safe either when chemical wastewater pollutes local lakes and rivers. What’s more, more than 150 million trees are cut down just to produce viscose.
But when picking between the lesser of two evils, viscose is definitely the more sustainable choice compared to silk. Whereas viscose comes from trees, silk comes from both silkworms and mulberry trees. A single mature mulberry tree can only sustain foliage for 100 silkworms, but in producing silk, much more of both living beings are used. Mulberry trees are grown with harmful pesticides and manure-based fertilizers that cause harmful algae blooms and fish killings. Silkworms on the other hand are usually killed in their infancy. Viscose also has the potential to become a more sustainable fabric by ensuring that it comes from sustainably managed forests and is produced without any harmful chemicals.
Mango promises that the viscose they use avoids deforestation and illegal logging. With its collaboration with LENZING, a textile company that produces eco-cellulose fabrics, Mango ensures that its viscose is sourced from “sustainably managed forests” and produced more sustainably than the traditional viscose. However, only 13% of Mango’s main fabric is traceable. This leaves much room for doubt whether this dress is part of that 13% and if it really is “committed.”
Although Mango has taken some action to reduce the impact of their viscose, it needs to scale this commitment to ensure that most, if not all, of the viscose they use is environmentally friendly. Without this guarantee, the true “commitment” of dress is questionable. To solve this, the criteria for a garment to be committed should be less forgiving. They shouldn’t just be “at least one of these options” or “meets minimum standards.”
To get this dress into your closet, Mango has launched strategic projects to create a more sustainable supply chain. What I like about Mango is that they’ve defined what they believe “sustainable packaging” to be instead of throwing around the label for greenwashing tactics. To them, it means choosing only the necessary materials with the lowest environmental impact, with the sole purpose of protection and transportation. Towards their zero waste goal, they’ve begun standardizing their cardboard boxes at the origin of suppliers. This ensures that the cardboard boxes themselves are of sustainable origin, certified by international standards, which avoids deforestation and illegal logging. They’ve also optimized what’s in the boxes to lessen waste in transportation; and in 2020, 54% of boxes from suppliers were reused.
Whether you prefer shopping in-store or online, you won’t have to worry about plastic because Mango has completely removed plastic packaging! Instead, every purchase is handed in paper or cardboard from sustainably managed forests. Even their labels are made from sustainable cardboard and they’ve begun using RFID technology to improve stock inventories and traceability. In newer stores, the lights that surround you are LEDs, which are free of toxic materials and are completely recyclable. In Spain, every one of Mango’s headquarters, warehouses, and company stores uses 100% renewable energy. They’ve also installed sensor systems to avoid unnecessary use of energy. In Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Switzerland, you can reduce paper waste by leaving with an e-receipt instead!
One of Mango’s highlighted initiatives is the replacement of plastic polybags with paper bags. They also rationalized why paper is the better option–it comes from renewable sources, sustainably managed forests, and can be recycled more often. Mango aims to reduce the use of 160 million plastic bags per year once this initiative is 100% integrated, but they don’t specify how much progress they’ve made or to what extent they’ve implemented the initiative into their supply chain. Despite the lack of specificity, this initiative is reflected both in-store and online.
With all of these initiatives, Mango was able to offset 17,450 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. However, this number is small compared to the 1,545,202 tons they’ve emitted. Of course, this is a huge amount of pollution, but Mango has revealed this number even if it doesn’t benefit them, and they are actively trying to reduce their impact.
Although these are steps in the right direction, Mango needs to implement the same actions in their stores all over the world. And however grand these sustainability initiatives and the “commitment collection” may be, they don’t offset the fact that Mango is still fast fashion, producing over 126,554,938 garments and accessories. Their Committed Collection is also only a small fraction of all their clothes. So although this dress is a more sustainable choice for a fast fashion piece, it’s still definitely not the most sustainable option out there.
Mango works with 455 suppliers and has used 892 production factories in 19 countries spread across the world with China still leading in production volume. Taking the Transparency Pledge Standard, Mango has been striving to advance their transparency and traceability in this vast supply chain. They promise that they only choose suppliers that share the same commitment to protecting human rights and adhering to their Code of Conduct. To prove this, they execute external social audits that evaluate suppliers’ production centers and they’ve even given a breakdown on how and what factors they do so, which is really a step further than what most brands disclose! These factors take child labor, forced labor, overall working conditions, freedom of association, disciplinary action, equality, working hours, the environment, and more into consideration.
However, the results are not as praise-worthy. In 2020, only 24.7% of factories were rated an A while majority (43.6%) were rated a C in accordance with their Code of Conduct. Although evaluating these factories can be impactful, what’s the use if Mango still allows factories that are rated C to operate within their supply chain? They could’ve also included the basis for the letter ratings and shown what factors are being violated.
Beyond these projects, they’ve also launched separate programs to create a more circular economy. This includes a partnership with Moda Re to donate 385,000 garments and accessories from their surplus stocks to be reused or recycled. In line with reducing textile waste, they’ve also promoted the SECOND CHANCE project by positioning 610 textile recycling containers in 11 countries. In 2020, they collected 42 tons of garments and footwear of which 58% were allocated to international reuse, 38% for local reuse, 1% for recycling for new features, and 3% for energy recovery. Since 2001, they’ve been creating alliances with various organizations to take more responsibility. This timeline started with an agreement with the Aitex Textile Technology Institute to guarantee that their garments and accessories are free from harmful substances to health, and continues to this day with a membership in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.
I’ve never seen a fast fashion brand go as in-depth as Mango has. However, since they still mass produce clothes at such scale that they still need to do more and have stricter standards for themselves to follow to truly make a difference in protecting who makes their clothes and lessening their environmental impact.