sustainable clothing consumption

Not Even Zara is Immune from the Commercial Need to be Sustainable

Speaking to the BBC’s Business Correspondent, Priya Patel, at Zara’s campus-like headquarters in northern Spain recently, Pablo Isla, the chairman of Zara and its parent company Inditex, tackled the sustainability issue. The August article led with this startlingly simple introduction which contains the key sustainability lesson for all companies.

“There is no contradiction at all between sustainability and profitability of the company,” he said. “In the next year, all our stores in the world will be more efficient – this means their consumption of energy and water is significantly lower. If your energy consumption is 20% less, you have a return.”

The Zara leadership is responding to an accumulation of issues brutalising the fashion industry; the changing role of high-street stores in our buying habits, the exploitation of female workers in Bangladesh & the disastrous PR it generates, the over-supply of throw-away fashion garments & the problem of recycling billions of tons of hard-to-recycle clothing past its “use-by” date.

To an extent the fashion world has, until recently, felt itself to be above the need to have a positive Corporate Social Performance standing, suffered instead from a confidence that, so long as it could produce ever-cheaper clothing, their consumers would overlook the industry’s obvious transgressions. But sustainability-savvy shoppers are a powerful block with a growing voice & Zara has responded positively, identifying that sustainability & profit go hand-in-hand, through;

1.     Recycled-material-only clothing lines

2.     Recyclable packaging

3.     More environmentally-efficient distribution

4.     Reduced power consumption in Zara stores

In a nutshell, more sales & lower costs – a winning combination we all ignore at our peril.

And therein lies the lesson of responding to the commercial pressures referred to in our July 4th article where we describe in stark terms the factors bearing down on businesses & their sustainability profile & point at the risks of being found wanting, a risk Zara has faced & chosen to meet head-on.

“But Zara is huge”, I hear you say in defence of smaller businesses. “They can afford it!” All that is true, but the key point is that ‘Sustainability is Infinitely Scalable’.

As one new client, frustrated by the lost opportunity of a delayed start to his business’s sustainability journey, put it; “What part of “greater-profit” coming out of being more sustainable did I not get!”

And therein lies the truth. Making a sustainability-focused business is not constrained by size, it comes from the recognition that sustainability-focused businesses invariably MAKE MORE PROFIT & it’s the delivery of that opportunity that Global Impact exists to deliver.

Just think about it; “Be Sustainable – Make More Profit”. Surely that has to be an interesting proposition.