The Problem With Zara's 'Sustainability' Strategy

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 4 weeks ago | News

Image: movie still from Confessions of a Shopaholic. Image source.

Over recent months, Zara has copped a lot of flak for its lack of sustainability initiatives. Which has prompted the fast fashion retailer to introduce a ‘sustainability pledge’. This includes a commitment to use entirely “organic, sustainable, or recycled” cotton, linen and polyester by 2025. As well as the launch of an ‘Edited’ collection, made from recycled and “ecologically grown cotton”. But the problem with this pledge is that it contradicts the inherent unsustainability of the fast fashion business model. 

According to The Fashion Law, “Zara produces around 450 million garments a year and releases approximately 500 new designs a week, or about 20,000 different styles a year. That amounts to more than 450 million items produced per year.” As one of the world’s largest retailers, Zara has been instrumental in the hyper-consumption boom and subsequent rise of the global climate crisis. None of which is sustainable.

In other words, the planet is buckling under the pressure of the fast fashion business model – spurred on by retailers like Zara. Which is why it smacks of hypocrisy when big brands like this release sustainability pledges that focus on recycling and fabrics, without first addressing the problematic, trend-based business model at their core.

“If you look at the CSR reports of companies like Zara… Zara is looking at opening 300 new stores this year alone,” says Anika Kozlowski, assistant professor of fashion design, ethics, and sustainability at Ryerson University in Toronto. “So long as they’re opening new stores, having to put product in that store, and expanding into new markets, sustainable consumption really becomes a question.”

So, until brands like Zara commit to smaller or made-to-order production runs and until they move away from the rampant speed and trend-based overproduction for which they have become known, fast fashion can never really be sustainable. And pledges like this can only really be seen as a marketing ploy, designed to trick consumers into buying more than we need.

At the end of the day, it is not about one-off efforts, but about encouraging a culture of sustainability.

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