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Spanish retail group Inditex, who owns a number of fast-fashion brands such as Zara, Pull & Bear and Bershka, have pledged to use only recycled, sustainable and organic materials by 2025. Responding to consumer demand for businesses to demonstrate environmental responsibility, the retail conglomerate will begin working with suppliers to meet a number of other green goals as well, including making its stores more energy efficient.
The fast-fashion industry is one of the largest global polluters today. Every year, the fashion industry produces 92 million tonnes of waste that ends up in landfills, according to estimates reported at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. In addition, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has also highlighted the industry’s accountability for 20% of global water wastage and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.
At an annual meeting, Inditex outlined their sustainability pledge to use organic, sustainable, recycled cotton, linen, viscose and polyester across their fashion brands. By 2023, the group aims to have phased out all non-sustainable viscose.
The parent company will also make all Zara’s retail stores “eco-efficient” by switching to clean energy by the end of 2019 in order to reduce carbon emissions. They will also seek to move to clean energy across distribution centres and offices to be 80% clean by 2025.
These moves follow consumer demand for sustainability-oriented, purpose-driven businesses. While global consumers are becoming more careful about where they spend their dollars, shoppers in Asia in particular are exhibiting increasingly high expectations of corporate environmental responsibility, said a 2017 Nielsen report. As a result, sustainable fashion has become a hot trend in the industry and has pressured fast-fashion retailers to make green changes. Embracing this trend, NET-A-PORTER recently launched its foray into conscious fashion. H&M and Uniqlo have also introduced their own green initiatives as well.
Commenting on their new sustainability pledges, Inditex Chairman and CEO Pablo Isla said: “We need to be a force for change, not only in the company but in the whole sector. Sustainability is a never-ending task in which everyone here at Inditex is involved.”
This is not the first time that Inditex has launched a green campaign. In a previous initiative, customers and staff can drop off their used clothing, footwear and accessories across 1,300 of the group’s designated retail stores. With an aim to reduce waste generated from the fashion industry, these collected items are then sorted for repair, resale and recycling. The company hopes to successfully achieve an active garment collection scheme across all of their stores globally by 2020. Online customers can also send their old used clothing back to the retailer.
While some are touting this as major progress for the industry, some eco activists are calling foul on Zara’s green campaign, citing greenwashing. Inditex has long been lampooned for its poor labor practices, which resulted in some workers leaving messages to shoppers in Zara clothing labels about not getting paid. The fashion behemoth has also made headlines in the past for its polluting, toxic supply chain. And of course, when a company releases over 20,000 new styles a year, it’s hard not to point out the low-priced, trendy elephant in the room: can a fast fashion company ever really be sustainable?
Our planet is facing a monumental waste problem, and we have to think carefully about our consumption choices, clothing waste being one of the major causes of overextended landfills. One of the best ways to reduce textile waste is to move away from fast-fashion, try out rental clothing, and buy from second-hand stores. And if you have to buy, make sure you are choosing conscious brands as much as possible.
Lead image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.