Spanish clothing group Mango is stepping up its sustainability efforts by rolling out a new corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy and focusing on moving to a more circular business model. Head of sourcing Andres Fernandez and CSR director Beatriz Bayo say transparency, collaboration and trust are key to a greener future and building back better from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Founded in Barcelona in 1984, the group owns the Mango woman, man, kids and Violeta lines, and designs some 18,000 garments and accessories each year from its ‘El Hangar’ Design Centre in Palau-solità i Plegamans, with its store network spanning 110 countries.

With the launch of its new strategy, Mango is “taking steps very fast now,” Bayo says. “We are deeply conscious that this is the journey that we have to make, not only for our company but also for our industry.”

She credits joining the Fashion Pact global environmental initiative in 2019 as an inflection point that triggered the group to set its CSR strategy. “We are completely conscious that this is the way we have to follow and we are working very hard on setting business goals. We are involving all the teams here within the company on our goals, it is not only for CSR, this for the entire company.”

The strategy includes a series of both long and short-term goals and was approved in July 2020.

Specifically, the group is working toward 100% sustainable packaging this year, 100% sustainable cotton and 50% recycled polyester by 2025, and 100% cellulose fibres of controlled origin by 2030, in addition to a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the same year.

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It also has plans to build on its existing Mango Committed clothing line with a garment collection made entirely with sustainable features by 2022. This season, 79% of Mango garments now form part of the Committed collection.

Traceability and transparency

Already ticked off its checklist is full disclosure of its tier-1 production factories, with a 91-page list published on its website last October detailing the names and addresses of the sites along with the number of employees and types of product they produce.

“When you go past tier-1, you start to uncover hundreds of small companies that work with all of our suppliers, so keeping track of that is very complicated” – Bayo

By 2022, Fernandez says Mango aims to have full visibility of tier-2 and tier-3 factories – on which it is “making good progress” – with 100% of tier-2 production sites disclosed at the end of this year and tier-3 next.

“This is very tough work, having traceability of all suppliers is very complicated,” Bayo adds, noting the group has been working closely with vendors to share its priorities and explain the importance of boosting transparency along the supply chain. “They are our partners to this responsibility, they are aware of that.”

She explains Mango is also working on a platform for managing the data, with Fernandez underlining the importance of technology in relation to transparency. “That’s very important because when you go past tier-1, you start to uncover hundreds of small companies that work with all of our suppliers, so keeping track of that is very complicated.”

Bayo concurs, noting technology makes the task at hand easier. “We need to adapt all the time; new necessities to new technologies and sometimes the information arrives before the technology. To have a complete picture of [our] supply chain and transparency and traceability, we need a very good platform or tool to release this information onto our website.”

The company overhauled its retail website in December, launching a new section dedicated to its sustainability efforts. The page is part of its work to be more transparent and will help communicate its principal CSR goals and progress with consumers.

“This is something we never had before,” Fernandez says, “but now we are all convinced we need it and we need to recap everything that we are doing on our site so everybody knows.”

Another hope for the new space is that it will inspire other companies to take similar steps towards greater transparency.

“We do not want to be passive followers, we want to be part of this” –Fernandez

“In the past, we have looked at many other brands that are ahead of us. That was a good inspiration for us to take steps in the same direction and also try to be pioneers in at least some of the actions that are required because we do not want to be passive followers, we want to be part of this and we want to make sure that we also inspire others to follow the same path.”

The group, which is also working on a filter to identify its sustainable garments online, will regularly update the new platform to communicate its progress in relation to each of its CSR goals.

Circular business model

The linchpin of Mango’s CSR efforts, however, is “how we start planning to evolve into a more circular business model,” Fernandez tells just-style. “That’s the main focus; that’s what’s next for us.

“We are in the process of understanding what we need to do, what are the steps we need to take…but we are really committed to evolving. We understand that we have a big responsibility for the waste that we create and on trying to keep materials running in the circular as much as possible.”

Also in the pipeline are plans to boost the company’s post-consumer garment collection scheme and ensure it has a “well-defined programme” that provides traceability on stock leftovers, donations, and garments that can be recycled.

Mango collected 42 tonnes of garments during 2020 through the recycling project it is carrying out in collaboration with de Moda re-. The garments are collected across 610 recycling points in Mango stores spanning 11 countries. This year, the group will extend the service to countries including Austria, Italy, Poland, Turkey, Switzerland and Russia, adding more than 200 new recycling points.

In addition, Mango has developed a new store concept that encompasses energy-efficient lighting and temperature control systems, as well as a design that incorporates sustainable materials such as natural paint and recyclable materials.

Sustainability strides

In terms of progress on its goals, Mango has pledged to replace all of the plastic bags it uses to distribute products throughout its production chain with paper alternatives and claims it is the first major company in the Spanish textile sector to do so.

Fernandez explains the replacement paper polybags will be derived from renewable sources and will be rolled out across production countries with a view to complete the process in the second half of the year. This work began with its suppliers in Turkey in April.

“With that, we will substitute about 160 million plastic bags with paper bags annually. As we have our goal of 100% sustainable packaging this year, this action will be the biggest one in this field.”

The company is also working to tackle the issue of plastic garment hangers, for which Fernandez says the aim is to begin executing such a project in the second half of the year.

Most recently, it has developed a new denim collection that has saved 30m litres of water by harnessing innovative and more sustainable washing and finishing processes using lasers or ozone.

The group has also recently launched its first homeware collection which builds on its commitment to sustainability, with 75% of the textiles having sustainable properties. In addition, 80% of the items have been produced in countries close to Spain and the use of plastic packaging has been reduced in deliveries.

Elsewhere, Bayo notes the group is working with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and the Higg Index to measure and manage its material usage and is currently working on a self-assessment of its fabrics and factories.

While as part of its bid to develop a garment collection with 100% sustainable features, Mango will implement the SAC and Higg Co’s Higg Product Module (Higg PM), which measures and assesses the environmental impacts of finished products with credible, science-based data.

Fernandez explains Mango’s umbrella for all sustainable product is the Committed tag which is a set of requirements in terms of sustainability of the fibres and/or production process which the group has defined internally to monitor its sustainability progress.

“We understand that we have a big responsibility for the waste that we create” – Fernandez

He adds while a Committed garment has sustainable properties, it can be even more sustainable in the future.

As for the targets for cotton, polyester and viscose, Fernandez says Mango is “pretty much in line with the roadmap that we defined for 2025 and 2030.”

He explains some materials are easier than others, with cotton, in particular, “better situated” with offerings such as organic, recycled and Better Cotton, in comparison to polyester or traceable viscose.

Meanwhile, as part of its commitment to the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, Mango is conducting a study of its carbon footprint. The findings will form the basis of a new roadmap to help reduce its emissions through Science-Based Targets developed in line with the scale of reductions required to keep global warming below 2C from pre-industrial levels.

Fernandez says the group remains on track with this work, having completed the assessments of its carbon footprint according to the Science-Based Targets Initiative in March and has just finished its first strategy for its Scope 1, 2, and 3 reductions for the coming years. The proposal is expected to be approved in the next few months.

The study also complements its membership of the Fashion Pact, whose signatories have committed to key environmental goals in three areas: climate, biodiversity, and oceans. The coalition brings together the CEOs of more than 60 global leading companies from the apparel and textile industry, representing over 200 brands.

Trust and collaboration

Bayo underlines the importance of such collaboration in reducing the environmental impact of the apparel industry: “It makes no sense to do it on our own; we are trying to work with other brands to our goals and objectives.”

Meanwhile, as part of its work under the biodiversity pillar, Mango has begun working with marine conservation specialists Asociación Vellmarí. The non-profit organisation carries out conservation and education projects in the Mediterranean from its base in Formentera.

Specifically, Mango will support Posidonia Lab, a marine conservation project which integrates innovation, research, education, and raising awareness on the protection of posidonia (neptune grass), an endemic plant species of the Mediterranean.

Indeed both Fernandez and Bayo agree transparency and collaboration are key to a better future, with Bayo noting “there is no other way.”

“You need to know more about your supply chain but to also share this knowledge, even with other brands working in the sector” – Bayo

She adds: “You need to know more about your supply chain but to also share this knowledge, even with other brands working in the sector. When we have a problem, this factory or maybe one of the other brands may also have it and we can solve it together. For sure it is something that we have to share. We really want to be transparent.”

Trust is equally important for Fernandez.

He explains the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of some physical audits at supplier factories as external auditors have been unable to travel to the site or country. In some instances, the group has had to rely on remote audits using technology, while in other cases it is using self-assessments as part of its work with the Higg Index.

“We have a few factories that have already been submitting their own assessments during the lockdown months,” he explains, adding Mango is validating the data once the Covid restrictions are lifted and quality agents can resume travel.

But so far, so good. “The good thing is that after doing our validations, we didn’t see big deviations so that’s good.”

To help navigate the pandemic and ensure it does not impact its CSR work, Mango conducted a survey of its main suppliers last summer to monitor the impact of the crisis on their factories and workers.

“We don’t want to stop the progress we were making…and we had talks with them to ensure that we follow on this journey together,” Bayo explains. “What we want is sustainable standards. We are very confident this is the only way for our partners, we will not accept any other thing.”