Andres Fernández on Mango's 2030 sustainability strategy and its current stage
A renewed sustainability strategy is marking Mango's roadmap for the year 2030. Presented last December, the Spanish brand's strategy involves integrating sustainability into its business system and business model, making it an integral part of all its projects. For over two decades, Mango has been expanding its sustainability team, which as of today already has 20 committed employees. Its latest initiatives have included the elimination of the 'Comitted' label in favour of an informative QR code, the publication of a complete list of its fabric and accessory suppliers and the launch of its first collection of recycled and recyclable denim just a few days ago. To find out more about this sustainable transition, FashionNetwork.com interviewed Mango's head of sustainability and sourcing since 2020, Andrés Fernández. A graduate in industrial engineering from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, the executive has more than 11 years of experience in the company, where he has held various senior positions in the buying department.
FashionNetwork.com: What specific changes are being applied to Mango's manufacturing operations under its new sustainability strategy?
Andrés Fernández: Last year Mango launched a new strategy for 2030 as a further step on its path towards sustainability in manufacturing operations. There are three main ways to achieve this. Firstly, by using alternative fibres that are more sustainable or recycled. We foresee that by 2025 all of the cotton used in our garments will be sustainable, all of our polyester will be recycled and 100% of our cellulosic fibres will be responsibly sourced. Secondly, by using production processes that help reduce the environmental impact of our products, such as using less chemicals and water in the manufacturing process of our circular denim collection for instance.
Thirdly, by incorporating circular design, which can be developed in three ways: the first way would be to create more simply designed garments, made with a single type of fibre or fewer accessories, in order to increase the recyclability of our products. The second way would be to design more durable garments by using carefully selected materials with physical properties certified by AITEX, with reinforced construction and a timeless design. And lastly, the third way is to take maximum advantage of the materials used and recycling textile waste.
FNW: What does this evolution imply in terms of changing practices or product design?
A.F: This change has led designers to explore more and more fibre alternatives that the industry is developing. In order to achieve this, it is essential to count on the support of our suppliers, as they are the ones who pass on these R&D results to us.
This involves changes in the garment design process, as well as in the way they are produced: garments made with a single type of fibre, the elimination of accessories such as trimmings or jacron labels; or changes in the manufacturing process such as using production technology that guarantees minimal use of chemicals and water, and 3D technology to reduce the number of samples produced.
FNW: What have been the main challenges in implementing this strategy?
A.F: Circular design means a new way of working across all teams: design, buying, manufacturing, etc.. The main challenge is to constantly train and teach all these teams throughout the development of the garments and during the entire manufacturing process. This means that the teams have to keep learning, adapting and acquiring all the knowledge required for eco-design, which is not something static, but something that is constantly changing.
FNW: How do you assess customer receptivity to the sustainable collections and garments?
A.F: The more sustainable collections and garments have been well received by the market, but in my point of view, sustainability should not be a purchase driver for customers, but it should be a driver for brands. In other words, customers should buy your clothes because of the garments' design, quality, etc., but not because it is or is not sustainable. This is something that companies are obliged to guarantee. At Mango, our customers choose us for our designs, and for the quality of our products, not for our prices. Ultimately, if a garment offers good quality clothing that is well designed, if customers like it and they know that it will last, then they don't really care so much about the price.
FNW: But how does this transition affect the price of the final product?
A.F: Sustainability is not a selling point, it is an added value. Some specific processes or fibres can lead to an increase in price. Recycled cotton, for example, can be more expensive because of the manufacturing processes involved. However, there are aspects such as the elimination of trimmings that allow us to compensate. Moreover, as these changes become more prolonged over time and we are able to exploit economies of scale, costs can be lowered. The more fibres are recycled, the more competitive the prices; similarly to what happened a few years ago with sustainable cotton.
FNW: Has it been difficult to responsibly source materials?
A.F: The demand for more sustainable materials by companies has been growing exponentially in recent years. This makes these materials more difficult to find for different reasons: on the one hand, because many companies are demanding them at the same time and there is not enough supply; and on the other hand, because prices, although they have fallen significantly in recent years, are still higher for some specific fibres than the cost of conventional fibres since the process of generating these more sustainable fibres is more complex and costly.
FNW: Is Mango planning to stop using leather and opt for other types of textiles at some point in the future? If so, why?
A.F: At the moment, we are not planning to stop using leather as there are no alternatives that match the quality and price of this natural material. Our focus is on ensuring that the leather we use, which represents a very low percentage of our range of products, is 100% from the Leather Working Group, so that we can guarantee that it is more responsibly sourced and that the best practices in producing and tanning these materials are being implemented. In addition, all animal derived materials used in Mango garments and accessories comply with our animal welfare policy and are sourced from animals that are destined for the human food chain.
FNW: This is always a difficult question for fashion brands: how is it possible to promote consumption and be sustainable at the same time?
A.F: Clothing and footwear are commodities where consumption is stable. Consequently, the strategy to follow is to work towards making design, production and usage as sustainable as possible.
To this end, it is essential for companies to have a sustainability department that has a global vision of the company and establishes the route to follow throughout the production chain. In the case of Mango, we have had a sustainable department since 2002 because we see sustainability as a path that the fashion industry must follow in search of a fairer society and to reduce the industry's impact on the environment.
It is also essential that efforts are not only individual, but collective. Companies are joining forces in different industry coalitions and associations such as Fashion Pact, International Accord, UN Fashion Charter or the Association for Textile Waste Management, of which Mango currently serves as chair.
Last but not least, we need to empower consumers. The more information they have, the better actions and decisions they can take. Mango is progressively replacing the Committed label on our garments with a QR code that redirects consumers to our website where they can find information about the garment's composition and where it was made and designed. Our aim is to provide added value and to be as transparent as possible with our customers.
FNW: What investment is the company counting on to implement the 2030 sustainability strategy?
A.F.: It is company policy that we do not communicate specific investment data on internal corporate matters.
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