HM's New Conscious Collection Is Greenwashing 101

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 3 months ago | News

Image: H&M Conscious Fall 2018. Image source

Everyone from Rowan Blanchard to Irina Shayk just celebrated the release of H&M’s latest Conscious Exclusive collection in LA. But while many have lauded the sustainable chops of this latest collection, we can’t help but see it for what it is: Greenwashing 101.

On the one hand, H&M’s 9th Conscious collection is progressive in the sense that it incorporates some innovative sustainable fibres – namely leather alternative Piñatex, silk-like citrus juice by-product Orange Fiber and algae-generated footwear staple BLOOM Foam. On the other hand, the brand’s so-called ‘ethical’ range is a small part of the overall business, which means it exists within the machine of rampant over-production.

Let’s not forget that H&M has copped flak over recent years for destroying a horrific $4.3 billion worth of never-before-worn clothing. Or the fact that the retailer was last year accused of failing to fulfil a pledge to ensure its garment workers are paid a fair living wage. Operating on fast turnaround times and playing upon consumers’ emotions to encourage a disposable fashion mentality, fast fashion can never really be sustainable.

Greenwashing is nothing new, of course, and it has permeated all retail touch points, from our chemists to our supermarkets. But initiatives like H&M’s Conscious collection represent a particularly insidious form of greenwashing. Because unlike the lofty language around ‘natural’ food or beauty products, the inclusion of sustainable fibres in a collection appears quantifiable.

What these sustainability initiatives ignore, though, is the fact that no matter how much Orange Fibre these retailers are consuming, they will never be truly sustainable – because the fast fashion business model is inherently unsustainable. Above all else, these businesses are focussed on quantity over quality. They routinely produce more than is necessary and encourage consumers to buy into trends.

In order for fast fashion to truly become sustainable, these companies need to drop the ‘fast’ element of their approach. And let’s face it – that's probably never going to happen. Because once they lose the speed, they also lose the one thing that gives them a competitive edge.

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