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Everything You Need To Know About H&M’s New Sustainability Initiative

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

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I think it’s important to preface this article with the acknowledgement that the business models of fast fashion brands are inherently unsustainable. That said, though, H&M is one of the more proactive companies, having launched a number of positive initiatives in order to try and improve their overall footprint. A lot of this probably comes as the result of consumer pressure — which just goes to show the enormous power of holding brands to account. Now the Swedish retailer’s latest move comes just this month, as they vow to use only sustainable materials by 2030

In light of the fact that 6,000 kilograms of fashion waste are generated every ten minutes in Australia, the Swedish clothing company has committed to using 100% recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030 as part of its vow to have a "climate positive" supply chain by 2040. “If you buy something new, and have it for a week, why don't you then give it back? Wouldn't that be fantastic?” asked H&M Group's Sustainability Director Anna Gedda in an interview with The Huffington Post Australia. Gedda also pointed out that about 85% of fashion waste tends to end up in landfull. Which is why she believes that a better alternative would be “renting clothes and making them into new clothes again.” 

H&M’s latest initiative was outlined in the company's Sustainability Report 2016 which was unveiled in Stockholm last week. "When it comes to sustainability work, long-term perspective is crucial. Some of the big challenges we are facing will have huge consequences in the future," said H&M Group CEO Karl-Johan Persson. "As a global company, we have a responsibility here to take the lead in fighting some of these challenges."

The Huffington Post points out that the retailer’s new sustainability strategy seems somewhat bolder than previous efforts. The company is determined to move towards "100 percent renewable and circular" fashion for instance, which is also "is fair and legal" at the same time. And among other goals related to transparency, supplier wages and working conditions, a "climate positive" strategy by 2040 means that H&M wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than their value chain currently emits. As one of the biggest retailers in the world, this is a fairly ambitious goal. But then again, if anyone has the scope and resources to pull it off, it is likely H&M.

Materials are an important place for them to start, given they are a producing company first and foremost. It’s an area they have been working on for quite some time now too, setting the goal ten years ago of obtaining all of their cotton from organic sources by 2020. Gedda says that they are currently at 43%. H&M is also now the biggest global user of cotton certified by the Better Cotton Initiative, as well as one of the largest users of organic cotton, recycled polyester and Tencel Lyocell. They do produce a lot of garments, but this is quite impressive nonetheless. Now they evidently want to continue that upward momentum. "We want to go beyond minimising the negative consequences of our business to actually have a positive impact," explained the company’s CEO.

Part of the way they plan to achieve this is through reducing the company’s overall carbon emissions. "Today, 96 percent of our energy use comes from renewable sources -- that's an increase from 78 percent in 2015,” Gedda says. “We want to reach 100 percent, and we will push for it in our operations and throughout our supply chain.” She does admit here that carbon emissions will always be unavoidable, but that H&M hopes to counteract this through innovation and technology programs.

Of course, there will always be critics of initiatives such as those laid out by H&M. Because we likely wouldn’t need to worry quite so much about fashion’s impact on the environment if it weren’t for major fast fashion retailers like this. This is something the company has also tried to combat through its Garment Collective initiative, introduced in 2013. Since its launch, the company says it has collected 39,000 tonnes of fabric waste worldwide, with a new goal now of collecting at least 25,000 tones by 2020, and each year thereafter. Then again, recycling initiatives don’t necessarily counteract over-purchasing, so there is a lot of yin and yang when it comes to these issues. Either way, we are glad to see such a large and resources-rich company making genuine pledges for good. We just hope that they can follow through on all of their promises.

Via The Huffington Post

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