From Burberry to Gucci, luxury brands are seemingly making a commitment to sustainability. The difference is Zara has worked on sustainability initiatives for almost a decade.
Zara’s Track Record and New Commitments
In 2012, Zara pledged to remove all hazardous chemicals from its supply chain by 2020. Later, in 2016, Zara launched an eco-friendly line, titled ‘Join Life.’ The line featured organic cotton, recycled wool, forest-friendly wood fiber, and more.
Just Tuesday, the company stepped it up.
It told Vogue that it would make all of its collections from sustainable fabrics by the year 2025. Additionally, The Guardian reported that Zara would power 80% of the power required by its headquarters with renewable energy sources.
But Is Zara Greenwashing?
Though these seem like noble goals, there is reason to believe that Zara is greenwashing, or portraying itself to be greener than it actually is. A quick glance at the company’s annual reports page yields the conclusion that the company hasn’t released a sustainability report since 2004.
Though the company did include sustainability in its 2017 annual report, the topic only grazed 2 pages out of 388. That begs the question: does Zara actually prioritize sustainability these days or it is just a show?
Further, unlike companies like Starbucks that publish data on their sustainability progress, Zara seems to have no indication of it. As mentioned, its 2012 promises are to be delivered in 2020. So far, consumers and analysts have been left in the dark to wonder just how far the company is from reaching its targets.
And to recall H&M’s greenwashing snafu, Zara’s newest announcements have an uncanny resemblance. With vague and drawn-out promises, the company really doesn’t give the public a chance to verify its claims.
Conclusions: And Next Steps for Zara
The obvious next step for the company is to actually deliver on its promises — to actually make all of its clothes from sustainable fabrics and to rid its supply chain of harmful chemicals. But perhaps more importantly, the company should publish data that contextualizes how it’s doing on its sustainability goals.
Part of making an audience believe that you’re committed to something is allowing that audience to verify your claims. That would be impossible without a sustainability report (or a greater emphasis on sustainability in the company’s annual reports).
Zara already has an edge when it comes to sustainability. It adopted sustainability initiatives much earlier than most high fashion brands. That is, it has a track record of caring about the environment far before consumers genuinely cared about sustainability in their buying decisions. For instance, Burberry incinerated over $38 million in clothing for supply control. After consumers and pundits called the company out, it announced new sustainability initiatives.
Zara doesn’t have a PR nightmare like this to deal with.
Empirically, it’s even been praised for its sustainability initiatives. But to keep up the pace, Zara must publish data and be transparent about what’s really going on under the hood.
Update: Burberry’s PR team has since reached out to us questioning our claim that the company announced sustainability initiatives after consumers and pundits called the company out. We have since made a change to say the company announced new initiatives.