Zara’s latest sustainability effort feels like it’s missing 500 points

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The words ‘jump’ and ‘bandwagon’ immediately came to mind on Friday morning as Zara has announced its intention to launch an in-house service enabling UK customers to sell, repair and donate second-hand clothing as part of its ” sustainability commitments”.

Oh dear. Has anyone on the marketing team stopped to think about the irony of a global juggernaut releasing 500 designs a week bidding to become more eco-friendly while continuing to release, well … 500 designs per week?

Slated to roll out Nov. 3 across retail stores, its website and mobile app, the Pre-Owned platform is the brand’s first foray into the growing pre-loved fashion market. But most would agree it’s not an original move in an industry feverishly jostling for lasting accolades.

At best, it’s a blatant bandwagon. At worst, it belies Zara’s legacy as a faster fashion company with a business model that is no different from controversial e-commerce labels like Boohoo, Shein and PrettyLittleThing.

The Spain-based chain of stores, with 3,000 outlets in 96 countries, recently published an online manifesto under the slogan: “Working for sustainability”.

It is all well and good to “work towards sustainability”, but it would be an understatement to say that they are still remarkably far away.

Zara releases an incredible 24 trending collections each year, made up of nearly 20,000 individual designs, according to a 2022 analysis of Wear then. This tantalizing slice of mass-produced clothing leads consumers to view their clothes as disposable and adds even more apparel industry waste that ultimately ends up in landfill.

Wouldn’t a more sustainable starting point be to reduce the number of drafted styles in the production line in the first place?

It’s not as if the brand has exhausted all possible avenues to climate awareness.

In 2021, Zara was among dozens of major fashion brands linked to deforestation in the Amazon, due to their connection with tanneries and the production of leather goods. More than 50 major fashion brands – including Zara, LVMH, Nike, Adidas, H&M, Coach and Fendi – were found to have supply chain links with Brazil’s largest beef and leather exporter, JBS.

Elsewhere, the company’s animal welfare policy prohibits fur, angora and animal testing in their garments, but wool, leather, down and exotic animal hair are all widely used. in Zara products.

And while it was ethics rather than environmental issues that got the brand into hot water in 2017, who can forget Zara’s unpaid Turkish workers, who said they had “no other choice” than to sew messages in clothes for customers to find? Inditex worked with other retailers, including Mango and Next, to set up a workers’ relief fund, but the reputation was damaged.

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There is no indication that Zara is even remotely among the oft-criticized fashion industry’s worst offenders – indeed, in 2019 parent company Inditex is committed to creating all of its collections from 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025.

But it feels like the brand is missing a golden opportunity to position itself as a legitimate leader in true waste reduction.

Instead of a resale platform, why not commit to drastically reducing the volume of products produced in factories in Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Morocco, Bangladesh and Armenia, showing its fanbase true to the trend that less really can be more.

After all, Paula Ampuero, Zara’s sustainability manager, admitted today that Pre-Owned is unlikely to be profitable in its early stages. If a company valued at almost $14bn (£12bn) has the chance to launch a loss-making division, it has the chance to reduce unit volume and prove that its commitment to the planet is more than a symbolic greenwashing.

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