REMINDER @Inditex: Stop airborne fashion!

Inditex, the parent company of brands such as Zara, is continuing to transport huge volumes of fast fashion items by air, causing considerable damage to the climate. In 2023, its transport-related CO2 emissions increased by 37%, reaching an all-time high. As the company’s management is ignoring a call by more than 26,000 people for it to change its course, we are now turning to the shareholders of the Spanish fast-fashion group.

Transporting fashion items by air produces a huge and totally unnecessary amount of greenhouse gas. This is why Public Eye, together with 26,192 people, called on Inditex in February 2024 to stop the insane practice of flying clothes around the world and thereby to halt the accompanying damage to the climate. Unfortunately, there is no sign of the company changing its course. On the contrary, in its most recent Annual Report Inditex has not presented any plans to bring fashion back down to earth. In the last financial year, its transport emissions have seen a drastic increase of 37%.

In the run-up to the Inditex Annual General Meeting on 9th July 2024, we are reminding Inditex of what we are calling for. At the same time, we are addressing all the company’s shareholders:

Take responsibility for the climate and put your company on a sustainable course.

Our demands to Inditex:

  1. Be honest about your carbon footprint and publish the data about your cargo flights and emissions.
  2. Begin a rapid and complete phase-out of airborne fashion. Set clear targets and draw up a phase-out strategy.
  3. Redesign your logistics systems so that they can function without these climate-damaging flights. Take the time pressure out of your business model and pay your suppliers prices that cover the cost of sustainable production, including living wages. Use your record profits to fund the transformation of Inditex.

2023: Record increase in transport emissions

In response to our research, Inditex has highlighted two figures in particular. Since 2018, its transport-related emissions have fallen by 13% and, in 2022, the company reduced the volume of its air freight by 25%. 

If this sounds good, unfortunately that’s because it’s too good! Inditex has simply picked the one year when it happened to transport smaller amounts of goods by air, which is probably due primarily to the disappearance of its important Russian business following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In fact, the long-term trend shows an ongoing increase (see graphic). In 2023, the transport-related emissions of greenhouse gases included in the Inditex annual report were 37% higher than the previous year and it is likely that air freight made up the majority of this. At almost 2000 kilotonnes of CO2-equivalents (CO2e), the emissions have reached an all-time high. Only part of this is due to the rise in the volume of products sold, because the transport emissions per kilo also grew by 32% over the last year. Transport is now responsible for more than 12% of the company’s total emissions. 

No fall in air freight at the Inditex logistics hub in Zaragoza

The freight volumes at Zaragoza airport (see graphic) clearly indicate that the fall in the number of Inditex air freight flights in 2022 was unfortunately only a temporary blip. The vast majority of the goods handled at the airport are for Inditex. If the fashion giant does not change its course and start taking measures to protect the climate, air freight volumes at the airport are likely to increase. In 2025, a new logistics centre near the airport with a floor area of 286,000 m2 will come into operation. According to media reports, the weekly number of cargo flights is currently around 50 and all the indications are that this figure will grow.

Inditex maintains that air freight is reserved mostly for intercontinental routes where other alternatives, such as rail and road transport, are not an option and sea freight is not time-efficient. However, Inditex has fashion items flown in even from Türkiye.

One positive sign is that Inditex has devoted a lot of space to climate change and the resulting risks in its most recent Annual Report. However, the extent to which Inditex takes the airborne fashion problem seriously is demonstrated by the fact that the subject is not even covered in its climate risk analysis. And air freight is only touched on in the remainder of the annual report. Inditex extols the virtues of a new measure to reduce aircraft emissions which takes the form of a scheme involving the oil company Repsol that will replace with biofuels 5% of the kerosene used in the aircraft of one air freight company that transports goods for Inditex (Atlas Air). This is merely a drop in the ocean. And above all we wonder why the limited capacity for producing fuel from biodegradable waste is being used for completely unnecessary fast-fashion flights.

Inditex itself holds the key to the phase-out of airborne fashion. As soon as the company lowers its absurd and excessive demands for the turnover of its fast fashion, the chapter of airborne fashion could be brought to a close. Some companies are already demonstrating that the global fashion industry can function perfectly well without air freight. The board of directors and shareholders of Inditex just need to have the determination to finally turn this key in the door.

Zara fuels climate crisis with thousands of tons of airborne fashion