h&m and zara aren't sustinable brands
Sustainable Fashion Sustainable Fashion Brands

Why H&M And Zara Aren’t Sustainable Brands – And Never Will Be

The biggest fast fashion brands are well exercised in the act of greenwashing. And chief among them the 2 brands we love to shop the most. But I’ll spill the beans on why H&M and Zara aren’t sustainable brands, and never can be! Not the way they are going.

You’ve all seen huge influencers marketing, for example, H&M’s “trash dress” from their “Conscious Collection”. This is the most visible and the most obvious form of greenwashing, and we need to be aware of it! What H&M promised in this campaign, with that dress, was lies staggered on top of lies.

And this is how it’s been for a long time already. But consumers are becoming more conscious now. The younger generations are very aware that their actual future on this planet is on the balance here. The fashion industry being the 2nd biggest polluter, thanks to their links to the oil industry, a lot needs to change. Quick!

Let’s take a look at the sustainability actions that have been made and why, despite them, H&M and Zara aren’t sustainable brands.

Why H&M And Zara Aren’t Sustainable Brands – And Never Will Be

Before we can understand how exactly these major fast fashion players have failed in the big scheme of things we need to first understand what sustainability actually means. There are plenty of interpretations of this complex concept. Many of them categorizing ‘sustainability’ as being the same as being ‘eco-friendly’.

Sorry to burst your bubble but no, sustainability is actually a lot more. And eco-friendly fabrics are nowhere near enough to deserve the word.

h&m and zara aren't sustainable brands

What is Sustainability in Fashion?

Sustainability consists of 3 main principles that have to be met if a brand wishes to call itself sustainable. Those principles are People, Planet & Profit. I’ll explain each principle shortly.

People: paying employees at least a livable wage and ensuring that working conditions are safe. Work buildings must be safe and every employee should have access to equipment and tools that guarantee their safety and health.

Planet: all operations from production to logistics to disposing of garments must be done ecologically. Intensive harvesting, deforestation, and using harmful chemicals in production goes against this. Also any disregard given to producing waste (overproduction) excludes a brand from sustainability.

Profit: consumerism only recognizes financial profit. But in the process of creating bigger and bigger turnovers huge companies created a climate crisis. Greed is the cancer of our generations. We need to re-invent profit, and do it in terms of the planet and the people.

The only profit we should care about is eradicating hunger and poverty, and instead reaching equality in every sense. When we all have equal opportunities in life, the planet and the people will thrive. And businesses with them!

h&m and zara aren't sustainable brands

H&M and Sustainability

Promises

Let’s start by looking into what H&M has promised us in terms of sustainability.

In the past 10 years H&M has promised to

  • reduce their greenhouse emissions overall by 2030
  • use 100% recycled or sustainable materials in their production by 2030
  • pay a living wage to their garment workers by 2018
  • put in action a policy to prevent deforestation of endangered forests.

Noble promises! Now, let’s take a look at exactly how much actual actions H&M has taken to bring these promises to reality.

Actions

I don’t think anyone will be surprised when I reveal that H&M has had very little action indeed. My question to the brand is, why even waste time in promising such things when there’s no intention to keep those promises? Because instead of filling the aforementioned promises H&M

  • still doesn’t pay their supply chain workers a living wage. Even though the deadline was met over 2 years ago!
  • has provided no proof that their greenhouse emissions are being lowered.
  • offers a recycling program where you can take old garments to their stores’ recycling bins. The reality is, though, that only 1% of clothes sent to recycling is actually recycled. H&M’s recycling program is just greenwashing.
  • publishes a detailed list of producers at the final stages of the production chain… What they leave out is most of the production chain, the part that’s outside of the EU. Clever, eh?
  • still participate in deforestation because their policy “cleverly” only covers endangered forests. They did ban the use of angora, fur and exotic animal skins, though.

I mean… It makes my blood boil how shit this brand actually is. HOW can you fail so badly at EVERYTHING?

Going forward

The reason why H&M and Zara aren’t sustainable brands, and never can be, lies in their business model. It’s called fast fashion for a reason, and that is the reason why H&M cannot call even it’s “Conscious Collection” sustainable.

We have to give H&M some credit, though. The promises they have made are good, and completely achievable! The only minus side is that they seem to focus on environmental issues alone. No fucks are given to actual garment workers, cotton farmers, the PEOPLE.

In the past there has been, and still is, serious concern especially for female workers in H&M’s factories. Over 80% of garment workers are women, and brands are aware of the abuse of many sorts in their factories. They choose to ignore it all.

The last point is something I probably don’t even need to mention: Despite projects to improve salaries, there is no proof of any action having been taken. And none of H&M’s supply chain is certified by labour standards. NEVER make the mistake of calling H&M sustainable!

Good alternatives to shop instead of H&M

Ninety Percent | People Tree | Nooworks

h&m and zara aren't sustainable brands

Zara and Sustainability

Promises

Zara is the brand that started the fast fashion business model in the early 1990’s. So, obviously they are the biggest. Where H&M at least promises things, Zara isn’t wasting time or energy even on that. Here’s what Zara has promised in terms of sustainability:

  • a repair and reuse program, similar to the one that H&M offers in their stores
  • ban on fur, angora and products tested on animals.

Yep, that’s it. That’s all Zara is prepared to do to secure you and your children’s generation a future on this planet. How valued do you feel as customer?

Actions

So, they’re not promising much, and at this point it’s bordering ridiculous how they fail even with so little. In terms of actions taken towards sustainability Zara has

  • started using recycled packaging
  • published reports about labour conditions in the final stage of the supply chain and some information on their supplier audits. So again, wiping all the dirt out of sight
  • despite banning use of some animal products and testing on animals, Zara does not trace these aspects of their manufacturing at all. So, if you’re not a fan of animal testing, you might as well ditch Zara for good.

Going forward

Now, as the biggest fast fashion brand, Zara is in the best position to lead the way. They’ve got more than enough financial resources to make the much needed changes in their supply chain. Even establish completely new systems and concepts that could spread through the industry.

But they are putting zero effort into even trying. Even their greenwashing is half-heartedly done. ‘Cause why bother? As the original fast fashion brand, I guess their “pride” is unyielding even in front of the global climate crisis. Which does affect them as well! Eventually.

Oh yeah, this wasn’t mentioned but Zara has never even promised to pay their supply chain workers a living wage. So obviously they don’t, and most probably, never will.

I’m sure I don’t need to say this, because Zara themselves aren’t even trying, but please, never ever refer to them as sustainable on any level!

Good alternatives to shop instead of Zara

Thought Clothing | Boden | Voglia

Soo, what did we learn today? I hope your take-away from this is to never again fall for the greenwashing that so many high street brands are engaging in. You know better now!

H&M and Zara aren’t sustainable brands and they never will be.