The Disappearance of Ethics and Sustainability in the Fast-Fashion Industry — It’s time to find real solutions !

Amandine Duchesne
4 min readNov 12, 2017

The clothing industry has been changing through the years. Several tendencies have been emerging from the industry ever since, to structure it into what it is today. These trends include the sub-contracting or delocalization of production to countries with lower transportation and labor cost, the increasing internationalization, which leads to the emergence of international competitors, the adoption of new technologies, a higher level of flexibility to adapt to the customers’ tastes and more recently the democratization of the fashion industry, in which Zara has greatly contributed.

It’s no secret that Zara is a non-negligible actor of the fast-fashion industry, first company who begin to quickly transfer designs from catwalks into their own designs, to reflect as best as possible current fashion trends. However, the competition in the apparel manufacturing and retailing sector is now highly intense. Alongside with the Sweden’s H&M, America’s Gap and Spain’s Mango, Zara shares the main part of this industry that seeks to get things going faster and faster, at the expense of ethical and environmental rules.

Remember what happened in April 2013 in Bangladesh..

The building called Rana Plaza, which housed several garment factories working for various international clothing brands, collapsed in the morning, shortly after the start of work. Evacuation instructions given the day before, after the appearance of cracks, had been ignored. The collapse caused at least 1100 deaths.

If you want to know how could such a tragedy happen, have a look at this interesting documentary realized by The fifth estate’s Mark Kelley who went to Bangladesh and tracked down workers who say they are still forced to make clothes for Canada in dangerous conditions.

No More Tragedy — It’s time to find real solutions !

The case of Zara

As being a major player of the fast-fashion industry, Zara has to take its own actions in order to become more ethically sourced and sustainable. One way of doing so would be to collaborate with NGOs. It would be beneficial for the fashion giant because it could lead to a better reputation of the company and also avoid dealing with costly legal trial. Improving the brand image is all the more important that the Spanish company has already had some troubles in that department. Indeed, in 2011, a Brazilian factory, which was producing Zara’s items, has been shut down due to poor labor conditions. Collaborations with NGOS would lead to modify the supply chain as they would require to respect some standards.

Then, the company might re-think the sustainability of its supply-chain by its own, starting with the transportation modes. Indeed 75% of Zara’s clothes are transported by trucks and such a way of transport is not environmentally-friendly. Zara might thus be looking for «greener» transportation means, all the more that it might reduce its dependence on fuel prices fluctuations.

After that, Zara might change the chemical substances used to dye its garments, by choosing less harmful items. Indeed, in addition to damage workers’ health, they also hurt the one of their customers because of the transfer of the toxic products from clothes to skin. As regards to worker’s conditions, Zara should also introduce a code of ethics relative to pay its workers on time in order to avoid what happened a few days ago, where unpaid Zara factory workers were hiding notes for shoppers inside clothing because they didn’t get paid for several months. (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/zara-istanbul-unpaid-workers-inditex-bravo-clothing-tags-notes-a8037256.html)

Finally, Zara and Inditex should highlight their ethical and sustainable image by having a website page that relates how their products benefit customers, but also how they benefit socially responsible or environmental causes. The company could even go further by increasing the transparency of its manufacturing and production processes and providing customers detailed information for each product, such as the cost of raw materials, workforce labor as well as shipping costs. By revealing that kind of information, Zara and Inditex could improve their brand image and beat competition since they provide customers the transparency they want.

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Amandine Duchesne

Hi, I’m Amandine, a 22y/o woman international opportunity seeker, last year of Master in Management Science. Get to know me: mynameisamandine.pagecloud.com