overall rating:



Disha Takle
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In this economy, the devil wears Zara. The retail company, owned by Inditex, needs no introduction as it is a leader in the fast fashion industry, producing trendy, ready-to-wear collections at affordable prices. Despite being under flack for its unsustainable business model, harmful impact on the environment, and poor treatment of workers, Zara (or Inditex) attempts to make several pledges and efforts to change that in their ambitious annual report.

Through their JOIN LIFE collection, Zara has been making their way towards sustainably sourced ethical clothing. However, with 24 trend lead collections, 500 new designs a week and almost 20,000 per year, their business model itself ensure tremendous waste generation. On the Fashion Transparency Index 2021, Zara scores a 35.80% suggesting that they disclose first-tier manufacturers and practices about social, environmental goals and policies, government and supplier assessments and remediation processes along with some information about spotlight issues such as gender gap, carbon emissions, sustainable sourcing, material and energy use.

What it's made of:


Zara's JOIN LIFE collection is marketed as their sustainable collection which incorporates the use of fibres such as lyocell, Tencel (pull fabrics that reduce water usage in consumption and production cycles), recycled polyester and organic cotton. The move away from using polyester in this collection may come off as a great sustainability effort, but it needs to be recognised that this collection only makes up for 35% of their yearly collection. Most of their clothes in their overall collection still use polyester - a fabric essentially made out of plastic- contributing to further wastage and pollution. Similarly, the Inditex annual report engages in different forms of greenwashing and data manipulation to inflate their efforts through vague terminology and lack of detailed processes and information. The indicators in their environmental projections, for instance, only include a small group of countries or consider the final stage of production in Spain, omitting countries in primary production and who do not participate in the programs. In terms of animal products, the Animal Welfare Policy suggests that they use wool, leather, down, and exotic animal hair but bans fur, angora and animal testing. There is no information about this to the first stage of production.


How it's made:


The evidence from this review as well as various other sources all point to one simple statement: Zara (or Inditex's) current business and supply chain model follows a short term 'Take → Make → Waste' model. If continued for longer, this unsustainable model is going to create more environmental damage for its short term, performative pledges to keep up with. We see the brand attempt to include sustainable practices and revisit its current models but the truth is that this model is only successful and enjoys the high-profit margins it does because of overconsumption and the disposability of its goods.

Who makes it:


As mentioned, the 35.80% transparency rating only discloses surface-level information regarding their practices. Their final stage of production for their higher range clothes takes place in countries like Spain, Turkey and Portugal and production of more basic, essential everyday wear takes place in countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar. They do include a list of suppliers and audits as well as worker protection policies. Inditex has come under criticism for not paying fair wages to their workers over the last couple of years. In 2016, due to the closure of factories and manufacturing hubs in Turkey, many workers weren't paid until three months after and in 2020, over 100 workers lost jobs in Myanmar due to COVID 19. To retaliate, the workers unionised and claimed that they were working 10-hour shifts, 6 days a week for a little under $3 a day. Even though their new pledges commit to fairly paying the workers, there is little evidence from their worker wellbeing and support programs that they are on track with these goals.

There need to be more active and driven efforts by Zara to incorporate sustainable practices, more transparency, and more evidence regarding the extent to which they apply for their programs. In the short run, the brand should focus on paying and treating their workers fairly while devising better long term profit models, investing in research for more sustainable fibres and revising their policy on recycled and returned clothes to minimise wastage. To conclude, Zara will get an overall rating of 1.3 planets because the company can afford to go beyond their current greenwashed and performative measures and play an active role in being a sustainable brand but chooses not to. 

Do better Zara! Do better Inditex!