“Gosh, I have seen this incredibly cute jacket at Zara. I think I’ll have to buy it. It would just fit so well to the blue shoes I have bought last week!”

21 Apr

 An example of Zara’s sustainable production myth

During my very first research on Zara, one of the greatest international companies belonging to Inditex, I found out that 80 per cent of their production is located within Europe. I was very impressed how they can afford to have their facilities so close by and still keep their prices down. Also it made me think that Zara must be more sustainable than their competitors like Gap or H&M. I found it just fantastic that apparently they do not have long transportation routes and keep their ecological footprint small.

To be more precise about my first findings, I have to point out that 50% of Zara’s facilities are located inSpain, 26% in Europe and 24% in developing countries. Personally, this is a topic that I am very interested in since I have spent one year in a developing country, Nicaragua. I experienced friends being exploited in outsourced garment factories in Nicaragua first-hand. One of my host aunts started working at a “Zona Franca” (an industry district, mainly consisting in textile factories) and regularly talked to me about the horrible working conditions. When her little boy got sick, she could not even take a day off to care for him. So especially after this year, I was sensitised when it came to fashion stores like H&M, because now it always makes me think about my host aunt.

This is also the reason why I got so curious about Zara having most of their production facilities within Europe.

First, I may share my findings about the advantages of having a short supply-chain:

The Spanish Retailer Zara has a very clever strategy when it comes to producing garments the cheapest way possible although they are one of the few retailers that is taking advantage of a short supply-chain. Firstly, having a shorter product life cycle Zara is able to meet consumers’ preferences. Moreover a short supply-chain enables Zara to have a quick inventory turnover. While their competitors need up to nine month to get new trends into their shops, Zara only needs between two and three weeks. The shorter the supply chain, the smaller your carbon footprint. Long transportation routes bring along a high consumption of gasoline. You may have some reservations concerning the traditional long supply-chain because you cannot help yourself thinking about sweatshop labor (at least this is how I feel). Retailers may use sweatshop labor to spend the money, saved on cheep labor, to establish a great brand image through advertising campaigns.  Finally, if governments decided to account for all external costs which the fashion industry involves, it anyways would become necessary to shorten the supply chain in order to keep the carbon footprint small.

After all this information, you might assume that Zara is the only positive example that produces garments without exploiting their workers. Unfortunately this assumption is not correct.

One example I want to mention in this article is the fact that Zara had been accused to exploit their workers in August 2011. One of Zara’s production factories in Sao Paulo,Brazil was closed when it was detected that more than a dozen Bolivian immigrants were forced to sew clothes under poor working conditions, without lunch or drinking water and not allowed to leave their workplace without the supervisor’s permission. The workers were paid a salary of 7-12 cents per sewn piece.

Again I find it frustrating to see that fast fashion always seems to come along with exploitation. Zara is not much better than other fashion retailers. I mean if you think of it fast fashion is not cheap. To buy clothing for incredibly low prices means that somewhere someone else has to pay for it if you do not.

Maybe this time it is not my host aunt who is paying for this absolutely must-have jacket you have seen at the Zara store, but someone you will never get to know. Yet, I think it is worth mentioning that the person that has sewn your jacket will never enjoy the same living standard you do.

Just give it a thought!


2 Responses to ““Gosh, I have seen this incredibly cute jacket at Zara. I think I’ll have to buy it. It would just fit so well to the blue shoes I have bought last week!””

  1. hitthenail April 25, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    I really like your article on Zara and its production chain. You pointed out all the advantages of Zara compared to other fashion retailers but you didn’t forget the negative sites of it and I completely agree with you that someone has to pay the price for people beeing able to buy high fashion clothes at very low prices in our modern world. In my opinion, it is also great that you mentioned the personal experience you have about that topic which shows that you also have a personal connection to it. The way you implied your personal story also forms a nice frame for the whole article because you mention it in the beginning and in the end which I think is very good. So keep on going this way!


  1. Disadvantages of lean management « hit the nail on the top - June 26, 2012

    […] Through the extra time, the company can produce more material. But because of the abundance and variations of new products the consumer loses the overview. In addition, the products become outdated as soon as they purchased from the shop. This phenomenon can be observed at the company’s strategy ZARA(read more about this in rosepanama post) […]

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