Inditex is infusing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with $4 million to fund a multiyear research project to explore global sustainability challenges as well as promote data analysis that can be applied to business.
The research investment is part of Inditex’s long-term goals of being a sustainability leader and working to create a circular economy. “Sustainability is fully integrated into all phases of the product life cycle, including all stages of our supply chain, from design and sourcing, to manufacturing and quality control, logistics and sales through stores and online,” the company noted.
The agreement calls for Inditex to fund MIT research initiatives “relating to the circular economy and new technology associated with sustainability and the recycling of textile materials, in addition to new lines of research related to data analysis.”
The funding will include creating two data analysis fellowships at the MIT Sloan School of Management and MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering, as well as renewing the annual scholarship program for MIT students at Inditex.
The funding was unveiled by Pablo Isla, chairman and chief executive officer of Inditex, and Rafael Reif, president of MIT. In a statement, the company said the agreement “further solidifies Inditex and MIT’s shared commitment to innovation and education following previous joint research projects focused on logistics technology, sustainability, and operations engineering.”
Félix Poza, chief sustainability officer of Inditex Group, told WWD, “At Inditex we are committed to constantly implementing the best environmental practices and taking into account the full life cycle of our products. Our $4 million investment in textile recycling and fiber innovations projects, among other environmental researches, with MIT is a prime example of that commitment, and there is evidence that our focus on sustainability is paying off.”
Regarding the return on research investment, Poza said the company’s “most sustainable product line, Join Life, grew by more than 85 percent last year and we continue to pioneer programs to drive clean chemical management in our supply chain.”
Details of the deal include earmarking $1 million specifically for the data analysis fellowships, which the company said is “to pursue pioneering initiatives in the circular economy and in the application of advanced sustainability techniques within the textiles industry.” The company also said its “Operations Research and Management Fellowship Fund” within the MIT Sloan School of Management “will receive $1 million in funding from Inditex to foster research and innovation in data analysis and prescriptive and predictive models applied to the textiles industry.”
Inditex said it will be joining the MIT Institute for Data, Systems and Society “to further research in areas such as artificial intelligence, automated learning and data science with a multiyear contribution of $1.2 million.” The company is also renewing the Leaders for Global Operations Master, which is Inditex’s scholarship program for MIT students that is backed by the MIT School of Engineering and the MIT Sloan School of Management.
“The program fosters the enhancement of technical and management skills through personalized and supervised educational experiences at Inditex’s headquarters in Arteixo, Spain,” the company said.
And lastly, the funding will include launching a new round of the MIT-Spain Inditex Sustainability Seed fund, which is for the promotion of research initiatives “between faculty members and students from MIT and their peers at universities and research institutions in Spain.” The company said the fund focuses on “areas such as new textile recycling techniques and the creation of new fibers using sustainable technology, and is endowed with $450,000 over three years.”