Is Target Fast Fashion? Brand Analysis + Alternatives

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Target is a household name all across the USA. The American retailer, originally founded in 1962 by George Dayton, was set up as an affordable line within his department store. Fast Forward sixty years and the brand is the fifth biggest retailer in the USA, operating over 1,900 stores across North America.

Along with household goods and tech, Target retails affordable clothing for the whole family. Target’s clothing range includes Universal Thread, A New Day, Ava & Viv, and Korna Sol.

While Target’s clothing is celebrated for being reliable and affordable, does this come at a price for its garment workers? We’ll find out as we ask the question, ‘Is Target fast fashion?’.

Is Target Fast Fashion?

While you may not consider Target in the same league as ultra-fast fashion brands such as Zaful, Shein, and Romwe, you may be surprised to learn that we consider Target a fast fashion brand, and here’s why.

Firstly the brand has an inventory of thousands of different articles of clothing – seriously – in womenswear alone, the brand has over three thousand styles available in the section ‘tops’. The brand then sells a lot of its clothing for a very low price, encouraging consumers to buy more clothing.

Is Target fast fashion? The brand creates thousands of styles of clothing

Having this amount of inventory also means mass amounts of stock must be created, which leads to a greater amount of textile waste.

Secondly, Target releases new styles regularly based on emerging trends. The combination of creating mass stock sold for a discounted price and the fact that the brand regularly creates new styles to keep up with the latest fashion follows the ‘fast fashion marketing model.

What Materials Does Target Use?

Target’s most commonly used textile materials include cotton and polyester. While the brand still has a long way to go regarding its use of sustainable materials, Target is taking steps in the right direction.

Cotton

Cotton is an environmentally intensive crop as it requires large amounts of water, fertilizer, and pesticides to grow when farmed conventionally. In addition, cotton supply chains are notoriously poor for transparency, and often forced or child labor is used during cotton production. Target understands these environmental and social issues and has stated that it will source 100% of its cotton more sustainably for its owned brand and exclusive national brand products.

Target aims to source more sustainable cotton through Cotton LEADS, the Better Cotton Initiative, recycled cotton, and organic cotton.

Polyester

Polyester is an unsustainable fabric that relies on crude oil to produce and isn’t biodegradable. In recent years, brands have pushed to use more recycled polyester over virgin polyester as it requires less energy to produce.

Target uses some recycled polyester with a minimum content of 20% within its clothing, which is a step in the right direction. However, recycled polyester still isn’t biodegradable, meaning it still has environmental drawbacks.

Target is also working on a textile-textile recycling initiative where they take end-of-season clothing and overstocked textiles and convert them into new materials rather than sending them to waste.

Is Target Carbon Neutral?

No, Target is currently not carbon neutral. However, the brand aims to meet net zero carbon emissions across all of its Scope 1, 2, and 3 supply chains by 2040. In 2021, Target reported a drop in CO2 emissions of 5.3% since 2017’s base figure.

Target is transparent about its emissions, publishing a breakdown of its GHG emissions within its yearly sustainability report.

Target aims to meet its net zero goals through various programs, including investing in regenerative farming, renewable electricity, more efficient logistic systems, and reducing plastic packaging materials.

Is Target clothing Ethical?

Target has a code of ethical conduct that all of its suppliers must adhere to. A third-party auditor then audits its Tier 1 and 2 suppliers to check that the standards set out in the code of conduct are being met. These standards include ensuring a safe and healthy work environment, ensuring no child or forced labor, and ensuring that a fair wage is being paid.

Target publishes some of its audit scores within the report, with most audits meeting acceptable results. However, this figure tells us that there are still many suppliers that aren’t meeting Target’s ethical code of conduct, which the company may still work with.

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While it’s great that Target is being transparent about some of its supply chains, the brand could share more transparent information about the full extent of its audit scores and workers’ wages in its supply chain. Plus, the company only scored an overall score of 31% in the 2021 fashion transparency index, which assesses the largest retailer brands and ranks them based on their disclosure of social and environmental impacts.

Where are Targets Clothes Made?

Target works with suppliers in China, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, The Americas, and South Asia to create its clothing and products.

The brand doesn’t disclose specifically the names of its clothing suppliers.

Is Target Vegan and Cruelty-Free?

No, Target is not a vegan or cruelty-free brand, as it uses some wool and leather materials in its collections. In addition, the brand doesn’t permit the use of any fur or exotic animal skins.

Does Target Have A Clothing Recycling Program?

While target doesn’t have a clothing recycling program, the brand does allow customers to recycle their plastic bags in store.

Target is also working on a textile-textile recycling initiative where they take end-of-season clothing and overstocked textiles and convert them into new materials rather than sending them to waste.

An improvement would be to allow customers to recycle their old clothing in-store and be recycled back into its raw material streams.

Ecothes Opinion: Is Target Fast Fashion?

Is Target fast fashion?
We rate Target an overall sustainability rating of 2.5/5, meaning the brand is taking steps in the right direction, but it still has a long way to go.

What we liked:

✔ The use of sustainable cotton over conventional cotton.

✔ Some transparency over audit scored – however, we felt Target could give more information.

✔ Transparency around GHG emissions and a reduction in carbon emissions over the previous five years.,

✔ Improving audit scores within its factories.

What we didn’t like:

❌ The brand produces thousands of styles, creating massive amounts of stock, which leads to textile waste.

❌ Target could be more transparent regarding audit nonconformances in its factories.

Sustainable Alternatives to Target

While Target is taking steps in the right direction, there’s still a long way to go, and at present, we wouldn’t consider Target a truly sustainable brand.

Below we’ve included some affordable eco-friendly alternatives to Target.

Remember, the most sustainable clothing is the ones you already own. Think twice about buying from fast fashion brands, and instead buy less but support smaller eco-friendly brands.

1. Pact

Pact clothing

Sustainability: Fair Trade certified GOTS organic cotton and fair trade production.

Best for: Sustainable everyday basics, women’s mens’, and kid’s clothing

Ships to: the US & worldwide

Pact sustainable alternative to Old Navy

2. For Days

For Days sustainable alternatives to Target

Sustainability: Zero-waste circular clothing system using recycled materials

Best for: t-shirts, casualwear

Ships to: the US

3. United By Blue

United By Blue ethical alternatives to Target

Sustainability: sustainable and responsible materials. Every purchase helps to remove trash from oceans.

Best for: Womenswear, menswear, casual wear, outdoor wear

Ships to: the US & International

United by blue sustainble fashion brand

4. Tentree

Tentree ethical raincoat

Sustainability: Sustainable fabrics, including hemp and Tencel, plus ten trees planted for every order

Best for: Sustainable wardrobe essentials

Ships to: the USA

Tentree Organic cotton turtleneck

Wrapping Up: Is Target Fast Fashion?

Target is a fast fashion brand producing thousands of styles of clothing which retail for a low price. The brand is taking steps to improve its corporate social responsibility, including using more sustainable materials, targeting a reduction in GHG emissions, and improving its social standards within its factories. However not 100% of all of Targets suppliers are fully compliant with its code of ethical conduct.

If you’d enjoyed our research, and want to discover the Ecothes rating for rands like Old Navy, J. Crew, American Eagle, and Banana Republic.

Bethany
Bethany

Bethany Worthington BSc (Hons) (she/her) is the Sustainable Fashion Editor and Co-founder of Ecothes. She has a passion for the environment, and a long love of all things clothing, and combines those two interests with Ecothes. In her free time she loves dancing, hiking in the countryside, and laughing with friends.

Articles: 186

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