Last Updated on June 4, 2023
Bershka has become one of Inditex’s leading labels since it was founded in 1998 and now has over 1,000 stores across the globe – but is it ethical and sustainable?
Here, we take a look at the practises behind the image.
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Is Bershka sustainable?
Like its sister brands Zara and Stradivarius, Bershka operates in a similar way to fast-fashion brands such as Pretty Little Thing, Nasty Gal and Boohoo, releasing new designs all the time to keep up with emerging trends.
This practise proves damaging to our environment as it encourages shoppers to consume more and to wear their clothes less, which in turn increases the volume of discarded garments that end up in landfill. The average American is now estimated to throw away 37kg of clothes each year, 85% of which will end up in landfill or be burned.
However Inditex reportedly invested over €7million on sustainability from 2012-2017. This went towards scaling and modernising logistics platforms and design centres in order to save energy, in-store technology, packaging and transport.
The company no longer offer plastic bags, instead opting for recycled packaging, and has set a target to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated from its operations and supply chains. However it fails to publish these emissions, leaving shoppers clueless about the sheer amount it produces.
READ MORE: What is greenwashing?
When it comes to materials, Bershka uses some sustainable fibres such as organic cotton and vegetables fibres, but the majority are not eco-friendly. You can read more about eco-friendly fabrics here.
However in 2019, Inditex signed the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action and pledged to create all of its collections from 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025. It also claimed that 80% of the energy consumed in its headquarters, factories and stores will be from renewable sources by the same year, its facilities will produce zero landfill waste and it set a 30% reduction target for its emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.
On top of this, the Inditex group has a selection of goals for the next few decades, including:
- 100% of electricity from renewables by 2022
- 100% free of single use plastics for all customers by the end of this year
- 100% more sustainable cotton (organic, BC, and/or recycled cotton) by the end of this year
- 100% sustainable man-made cellulosic fibres from more sustainable sources by the end of this year
- 100% more sustainable linen and recycled polyester by 2025
- Inditex to reach Net Zero Emissions by 2040
The group also started a repair and reuse program called Closing The Loop in 2016, which allows shoppers to drop off used garments in-store or through the post to be recycled.
Still, a lot more needs to be done for the brand to be able to call itself truly sustainable.
Is Bershka ethical?
In 2022, Bershka received a score of 81-90% in the Fashion Transparency Index, a huge improvement on previous years.
Inditex has a code of conduct that protects workers and audits take place to ensure this is enforced. The group also publish a list of suppliers, information of supplier audits and some information on gender equality, forced labour and freedom of association.
However Good On You report that half of its final stage of production takes place in Spain, a country which holds a medium risk for labour abuse, and there is no evidence Bershka pays a living wage across its supply chain.
As for the COVID-19 pandemic, the group discloses policies in place to protect workers and suppliers in its supply chain from the impacts of Covid-19. In August 2020, it was reported that Inditex had pledged to maintain workers’ rights throughout their supply chains and the stability of payments to suppliers during the crisis.
The group had previously signed a joint agreement with global workers’ union IndustriALL, and during the pandemic they reiterated their commitment to ensuring health and safety standards were met and bargaining rights and workers’ rights to unionise were maintained throughout their supply chains. The group also committed to stable payment terms to allow suppliers to honour payments to their workers, ensuring they didn’t lose wages during the pandemic like certain fast fashion retailers’ employees did, such as those for Arcadia.
Bershka Animal Welfare Policy
Bershka continues to use leather and exotic animal hair in its products, while it sources wool from non-mulesed sheep. The store’s website states, ‘We do not use leather or products which come from animals who are sacrificed exclusively to sell their skin, shells, antlers, bones, feathers, down or any other materials.’
It does not use fur, angora, exotic animal skin or down, and it works with Fur Free Alliance and their Fur Free Retailer programme to avoid animal exploitation. Their cosmetics are not tested on animals.
However Bershka provide no evidence it traces any animal products to the first stage of production.
Wear Next Opinion
Wear Next believes it’s important to highlight the negative and unjust practises taking place in the fashion industry. We believe ethics and sustainability are an important talking point to bring about change and we encourage you to contact fashion brands to demand this.
However we understand that sustainable fashion isn’t accessible for every body due to various factors, such as budget and the ability to find confidence-boosting clothes that fit. We will continue to offer you fashion inspiration and guidance to suit every body and budget, while also highlighting the unjust systems at play in the fashion industry.
We encourage our readers to shop mindfully and purposefully, ditching impulse purchases as a way to start shopping sustainably. If you want to learn more about fast fashion, we recommend books from this reading list.