Climate activists around the world have begun to show the fashion industry that it must wake up. The industry has an invaluable role to play in our goal to make our lives on earth sustainable. It is the second biggest polluter after the oil industry and it produces nearly 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, in our race against climate change, the fashion world must undertake a huge and crucial change for our planet. 

Notable fashion brands and leaders have stepped up to this challenge. Stella McCartney passionately advocates that fashion must become circular, shown through her work with the luxury reselling platform: The RealReal. Patagonia admirably encourages its customers to buy less and Pharrell Williams is using fashion as a tool to tackle the plastic pollution in the Ocean. So, fashion proves it can take sustainable steps forward. The question now is, how far can we trust that all fast fashion tycoons will genuinely try to follow in these footsteps? 

Recently, Zara has set out its new sustainable goals but we need to be questioning how seriously we can take them. Zara claims they will no longer use fibres that have been sourced from endangered forests, they will exclude hazardous chemicals from their supply chain and, at future dates, they will eliminate single-use plastic from packaging and ensure that sustainably sourced cotton and linen is used throughout their production. These new goals do, undoubtedly, represent a new environmental conscience. However, when the biggest fashion retailer in the world sets out these targets it’s certainly easy to get caught up in the optimism that enough change is really happening.

We must remember that Zara’s business model, like all fast fashion retailers, is based on extreme mass consumption. Zara’s model depends on their customers continuously buying new clothes, then getting bored of those clothes and then buying more new clothes. They produce 500 new designs a week and over 20,000 per year, which entices their customers to constantly change their wardrobes. And the most devastating thing is: this model overwhelmingly succeeds.

The average Zara customer shops in a Zara store 17 times a year! That means over once a month they are updating their wardrobe with new designs that they will very quickly get bored off. This has a double knock on effect. Firstly, Zara’s clothes continue to be added to landfills that pollute our planet, regardless of whether they stop using single use plastic packaging or not. And secondly, Zara continues with their model of producing 1000s of designs a month which requires them to release astronomical amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere. It is these gases that are heating up our planet to a dangerous level. Unfortunately, in the wake of  this excess, no amount of sustainably sourced cotton and linen will be able to keep us afloat. We need to disrupt this model.

There is no denying Zara’s sustainable goals do signal something positive and that is that climate activists are being heard by the most influential brands in the world. But it is not enough. So keep on making a very loud noise and do not settle for anything but real change.

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