It’s week 2 of our 5 week blog mini-series: #fiveweeksoffails. We’re digging into some of the biggest names in fast fashion, helping you sort out what’s real progress and what’s meant to greenwash away consumer guilt.
Following our extensive sustainable brand criteria, powered by Remake, each brand will receive scores for transparency, maker well-being, environmental sustainability, material sustainability, and leadership. In order for a brand to be considered sustainable, they need to score at least 50 points.
We’ll go over the good, the bad, and where there is room for improvement. For the second brand of the series we’re diving into a titan of the fast fashion industry: Zara.
Zara is a fast fashion pioneer. New inventory comes in so quickly that a shopper is likely to get a completely new shopping experience each time they walk into a store.
Recently, Zara has been making an effort to boost its sustainability image with the launch of its JOIN LIFE movement. This launch includes sustainability commitments, ethical goals, and, of course, a product line. But has this recent effort been enough to make Zara a sustainable brand?
Let’s see how they stacked up.
For transparency, Zara scored just below 50%. Not great.
The good: Zara’s parent company was one of the more transparent fast fashion brands when it came to supply chain traceability. They mandate all subcontractors receive safety audits and participate in a continual review process that allows for contracts to be terminated if a factory consistently fails to make improvements.
They also have, “collaboratively design[ed] specific programs on the subjects of health and safety, worker participation, training and awareness, a living wage, responsible purchasing practices, migrant protection, and women’s empowerment.”
The bad: Almost all of the actual information on Zara’s site links to their parent company: Inditex. While that isn’t inherently a bad thing, it can be difficult to find information specific to Zara on the Inditex website. The company doesn’t provide a detailed enough factory list and the results of their audits are not publicly available.
Maker Well-being: 10/33
Zara received a 10/33 for maker well-being. While they have begun taking steps to improve the working conditions of their workers, with Zara’s size and profitability, there’s really no excuse for them to be so far behind other brands.
Zara has a solid code of conduct. Their audits ensure that the code is enforced and allow termination if companies can’t live up to their standard. Additionally, there is some evidence that Zara is working on collaborative well-being and education initiatives.
Where Zara falls short is scale. There was no evidence on their website that their community and worker well-being programs are present at even half of their factories. Programs limited to a few factories or even a few countries still leave the majority of their makers without support. Until they can expand their programs, they don’t meet our standards for ethical creation.
Environmental Sustainability: 15/33
Zara scored just below 50% for environmental sustainability.
Zara has recently publicized a list of environmental commitments. These goals span the next five years and include everything from water conservation to reducing waste in landfills. They’ve also worked to ban some harmful chemicals in production.
The main issue with Zara’s environmental policy is lack of transparency. They fail to disclose the number of resources that go into their production. This makes it difficult to determine how impactful their sustainability goals can truly be.
Sustainable Raw Materials: 2/14
The good: Zara has a policy for animal protection.
The bad: to get the points in this section, Zara needs to be producing over 50% of their material sustainably and in ways that protect the human rights of producers. The company simply isn’t there.
This is a difficult category to score points in. Even many of our most sustainable brands struggle to get full credit.
That being said, Zara falls far behind truly sustainable brands. Their “sustainable” clothing is such a small portion of their products that it’s impossible for it to make meaningful change. They’re also still promoting the mass consumerism that feeds into fast fashion, and is inherently unsustainable.
Overall, Zara scores a 34 on our sustainability scale. Although their sustainability goals may improve this score in the future, Zara’s current business practices are falling abysmally short. For now, Zara fails the sustainable brand test.