Spanish fashion retailer Inditex and wilderness preservation organisation WWF have signed a three-year partnership agreement with the goal of investing in nature restoration and working on nine transformational projects across North Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America. The partners will focus on forest restoration and conservation, water basin restoration and conservation and species and habitat protection.
Inditex will make a minimum annual contribution of 3 million euros to WWF, with 4.2 million euros set for 2022. This will amount to a total contribution of more than 10 million euros over the course of the partnership. The money will partly come from funds earned by charging consumers for paper bags and envelopes, an initiative launched in 2021 with the aim of promoting the use of reusable alternatives.
“Our sustainability strategy seeks to increase the positive impact of our work on people, communities and natural resources. We are therefore delighted to partner with organisations like WWF who share our determination to help protect and restore ecosystems worldwide. We believe that WWF, with its proven track record and global reach, is the best long-term partner for powering up our environmental commitments through transformational work targeted at our entire industry,” said Inditex CEO Óscar García Maceiras during the signing ceremony in Geneva.
Forest restoration and conservation
The planned forest restoration and conservation efforts will affect regions in Spain, Turkey, Italy and Greece. The Castile-La Mancha region accounts for over 13 percent of Spain’s total forest land and a project will focus on protecting the biodiversity of and fostering the sustainable management of the region. In Turkey, the efforts will support forest restoration work in Datça-Bozburun and in Italy, the oaklands of the Cratere degli Astroni Nature Reserve in Naples, which have both been affected by recent forest fires. In Greece, forest conservation efforts will protect Dadia, a vital haven for Europe’s birds of prey.
Water basin restoration and conservation
Water basin restoration and conservation projects are concentrated in North Africa, specifically the Sebou River in Morocco and the coastal wetlands of Ghar el Melah, and the wetlands of the Guerbes-Sanhadja plain in Tunisia and Algeria. In addition, a project in Vietnam that is working to restore the Tra Su wetlands located in the Upper Mekong Delta with the goal of increasing climate resilience and enhancing the area’s biodiversity will receive more funding.
Species and habitat conservation
Lastly, species and habitat conservation projects include the conservation of the Gran Chaco tropical forest and Pantanal wetlands through community-based projects in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. In Mexico, WWF is working with local organisations to protect and restore the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and the Central Pacific Jaguar Landscape to ensure the future of the near-threatened jaguar and threatened monarch butterfly and other key species and communities that depend on these landscapes.
Elsewhere, WWF is working in the Taihang-Yan mountains located in the Amur-Heilong region in northern China. This mountain area is a vital habitat for several medium and large size predators, including 60 percent of the country's leopard population.
The rest of the money made from the sale of paper bags and envelopes will be invested in environmental projects run by a range of other organisations, such as the sanitation network improvement projects being championed by Water.org in several South-east Asian countries and the collaboration with Action Social Advancement (ASA), together with the Laudes Foundation, IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative and WWF-India, to foster regenerative farming practices in India.
“WWF is excited to partner with Inditex in our mission to reverse nature loss and achieve a nature-positive world by 2030. Nature underpins our economies, our societies, and our wellbeing. However, we are losing it at an alarming rate. Like many industries, the apparel and textile sector is highly dependent on nature and biodiversity. However, it also has a significant impact. We need urgent action to halt and reverse nature loss, including collective and strategic investments in restoring and protecting biodiversity,” commented Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International.
As part of this agreement, WWF and Inditex will enter into a year-long scoping phase with a special focus on water stewardship and biodiversity conservation. The analysis will include drawing up a map of impacts along Inditex’s value chain and a “review of its actions, impacts and advances with a view to identifying priorities and key geographies”. With the results in hand, the two organisations plan to seal a second agreement, to which a budget will be allocated, for making progress on sector transformation.
Though the collaboration and allocation of millions of euros is commendable, it does not tackle the root of the problem - habitat loss and deforestation due to ever increasing demands of the fast fashion industry, of which Inditex brand Zara is not only a part but also a pioneer. Until serious efforts are made to curb production and therefore consumption, efforts like these will remain patch-up work rather than long-term solutions.