When I would tell my friends that this summer, I´d be working in the Human Resources department of Inditex, they often gave me quizzical looks, to which I would have to explain, “The company that owns Zara.” This same lack of recognition for the corporation that owns such a well-renown brand is true even here in Spain. In group interviews, one of the first questions the interviewer asks the candidates is if they can name the other brands the company owns. During my time working for Inditex thus far, I´ve learned what a truly incredible company this is, and for more than just Zara – for revolutionizing the fashion world, for their top quality products, for their commitment to sustainability, and for their philanthropic ventures.
Inditex is a Spanish multi-national clothing company started by Amancio Ortega Gauna, who is now the fourth richest man in the world. Ortega founded Inditex in A Coruña, in the north of Spain, in 1963. The first Zara store was opened in 1975, and stores had spread to New York by 1989 and Paris by 1990. Besides bringing quality styles at affordable prices, Inditex revolutionized the fashion world by cutting production time from two months down to two weeks. Their speed and production logistics have made them nearly as famous as the quality of their style. The group designs and manufactures everything by itself, dispatching new designs twice a week to Zara stores.
Today, still headquartered in Galicia, Spain, Inditex is one of the world´s largest fashion distribution groups, with more than 6,249 stores in 77 countries, and employing more than 130,000 people on four different continents – Europe, America, Asia, and Africa. Its vision of fashion based on quality and creativity, and their ability to react to market demands with speed, has enabled the company to enjoy not only rapid but successful and well-received international expansion.
While Zara is indeed the largest of the retail chains, Inditex operates a total of ten brands:
Zara – the flagship brand, with versatile and trendy options for men, women, and children. While it started as a low cost competitor, its quality now matches the best brands in the world.
Pull & Bear – casual and laid back clothing for young adults, with a very urban style, at affordable prices.
Bershka – a more hipster version of the brand Pull & Bear.
Massimo Dutti – preppy and more formal style clothing, for both men and women, comparable to J.Crew.
Stradivarius – for the free spirit, a very hippie-chic feel, comparable to Free People.
Oysho – women´s undergarments, accessories, and bathing suits, comparable to Victoria´s Secret.
Zara Home – merchandise for the home, comparable to Crate and Barrel.
Lefties – the most affordable and youthful of the company´s clothing lines.
Kiddy´s Class – a children’s brand.
Uterqüe – the newest and most expensive brand, offering very fashion-forward styles.
Besides being well-known for its speed and style, Inditex operates with strong corporate values, and collaborates with other organizations and initiatives with similar values, to develop their corporate social responsibility policy. Some examples of partnerships Inditex maintains include: the UN Global Compact, the CEO Water Mandate for conservation of water, Better Work Programme for workers rights, Medicos Sin Fronteras (doctor´s without borders), World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), the Ethical Trading Initiative, and Sustainable Apparel Coalition.
A huge part of their CSR policy is their commitment to sustainability. They call this commitment the “Right to Wear,” stating “Sustainability means the seamless and supported integration of our business model in the community. It means taking a long-term approach with the aim of adding value to society.” This concept is further broken down into five categories:
Clean and safe to wear (customers) – quality of product is a non-negotiable for Inditex, which starts with in-house health and safety standards. Inditex promises to design responsible clothing, obtained from production processes that do no contaminate soil or water.
Teams to wear (employees) – Inditex believes in a responsibility not only to society, but to ourselves, and encourages a corporate culture of critical thinking, teamwork, open communication, and self-imposed high standards. The company is commited to offering policies that ensure a work-life balance, as well, such as paternity leave and adjusting working hours to class schedules.
Inditex also launched a chain of seven stores called “for&from,” which collaborates with social enterprise entities, to integrate employees with disabilities into the workforce. Inditex builds the store, which sells prior-season clothing at a discount, and the stores then becomes self-sufficient. The profits generated fund the social enterprise entities that run the stores.
In addition, Inditex encourages employee volunteerism. In 2013, a project called “Likes” was started, in which employees that are seeking to support specific social or enviornmental causes submit their ideas for votes from their coworkers. Once the project receives enough votes, Inditex donates both cash for funding the project, and employee working hours to volunteer.
Tested to wear (suppliers) – Inditex produces its clothing from organic cotton or recylced materials, as well as promoting raw materials training and forest management for their suppliers to ensure ecological farming decisions are always being made.
Social to wear (community) – Inditex also supports education and employment programs, as well as humanitarian relief, through its corporate offices. In 2013, the company invested over 23 million euro into community work, supporting 313 non-profit organizations, only 33% of which stayed in Spain. Some of the key projects the company has recently supported are the fight against Ebola, a nutrition program in India, providing care for Syrian refugees in Turkey, and emergency aid to the Nepal earthquake victims.
Green to wear (environment) – Inditex operates under a policy that allows the company to maintain their pace of growth, while complying to stringent environement standards. All stores are kept as eco-efficient as possible. This strategy is broken down into three forms – water conservation, energy management, and biodiversity protection.
Inditex is a company not only setting the gold standard for their industry, but commited to a strong CSR policy that puts people first – both employees and customers, that takes care of the environment and community their products come from, and that utilizes their success to give back to both local and global causes.