Zara pledges 100% ‘sustainable’ fabrics by 2025

The majority of high-street clothes are currently made from textile blends

The commitment will see Zara remove all synthetic fibres made using fossil fuels removed from its clothing, shoe and accessory lines – a commitment that also covers the inclusion of such content in notoriously hard-to-recycle textile blends.

In tandem, efforts will be made to source a greater proportion of “renewable” natural fabrics such as cotton, linen and hemp from sources certified as sustainable. A 100% sustainable sourcing target has been set for viscose.

Once the switch is made for Zara, parent company Inditex will implement measures to help its other owned brands to follow suit. The firm is notably the third-largest apparel retailer in the world and also owns Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Zara Home and Bershka.

Inditex’s chief executive Pablo Isla believes the commitment is the first of its kind to be made by a major high-street fashion retailer.

“We need to be a force for change, not only in the company but in the whole sector,” Isla said.

“We are the ones establishing these targets: the strength and impulse for change is coming from the commercial team, the people who are working with our suppliers, the people working with fabrics. It is something that’s happening inside our company.”

The new target on materials was unveiled at Zara’s company meeting this week, along with a string of other sustainability initiatives for 2025. These include sourcing 80% of the energy consumed across Zara offices, factories and stores from renewable sources and achieving zero-waste-to-landfill status.

Mixed reaction

The unveiling of the new targets come at a time when Inditex is increasingly receiving recognition for its sustainability efforts.

In September 2018, it was named the most sustainable retailer by the Dow Jones sustainability index for the third consecutive year. This high ranking was compounded by a number of factors, including the company’s clothing take-back scheme, charity work and research into textile recycling.

Inditex’s clothing take-back scheme was launched in 2015 and has collected more than 34,000 tonnes of used garments to date, both through in-store banks at 800 locations across 24 regions, and a home pick-up service. On recycling, it is currently working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to find, develop and commercialise mechanical and chemical recycling breakthroughs.

Nonetheless, green groups and MPs have criticised Zara and other “fast fashion” brands for failing to reduce the volume of product they produce in the first place. Last year, Inditex’s annual sales grew 3% to €26.1bn.

With more than 100 billion garments and 20 billion pairs of shoes being produced by the global fashion industry, such critics, including the likes of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), Stella McCartney, Extinction Rebellion and Fashion Revolution have claimed that true sustainability for fashion cannot be achieved under unchecked growth.

“A lot of big businesses tend to concentrate on symptoms of the current unsustainability of the fashion industry and believe that businesses like theirs are the most appropriate place to start,” Williams explained,” London College of Fashion’s head of fashion design for sustainability Dilys Williams told the EAC during its ‘Fixing Fashion’ inquiry

“However, [this] approach is not sufficient. We can sustain the fashion industry as it currently is, but if we want to live within the planetary boundaries and create more equality, we need to take a more eco-centric approach.”

Sarah George

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