H&M unveils progress towards sustainability goals

H&M released its latest sustainability report this week and said it's making good progress towards its goals on this front. 


H&M

The Swedish retail giant said that “the fashion industry needs to rethink the future of fashion” as it’s “too dependent on virgin and non-renewable resources” and that the company “is therefore pushing the development towards a shift to a circular model, where materials are maximised and waste is minimised.”

The company has been doing this via a mixture of initiatives making heavy use of technology and also focusing on fairness to the workers in its supply chain.

This week it said that recycled or other sustainably sourced materials made up 35% of the group’s total material use in the latest year, which is an increase from 26%. However there’s still a long way to go and the goal is to only use this kind of material in 2030.

It also partnered with the innovation company re:newcell whose unique technology recycles used cotton, viscose and other cellulosic fibres into new textile fibres and this partnership helped support its recycling growth. 

Another step that drove it forward was the fact that it became one of the two core investors in innovation company Treetotextile, developing a new sustainable textile fibre based on forest raw materials.

SHORT-TERM GOALS

But while its goal of achieving 100% recycled and sustainably sourced materials seems quite a long way off given that it has an end date of 2030,  it also has other more short-term goals that it’s on the way to achieving.

The company said that 59% of the cotton it used came from sustainable sources last year, up from 43%, and its aim is to only use this kind of cotton as soon as 2020.

Of course, cotton isn't the only focus, and consumer interest in recent months has shifted heavily towards synthetic fibres on the back of a tidal wave of publicity around the damage plastic waste is doing to the environment. H&M said that last year it used recycled polyester equivalent to 100 million PET bottles and the Weekday brand launched its first-ever sustainable swimwear collection made from recycled polyamide and recycled polyester. The company also launched its first garments made from recycled shore-line waste, called Bionic, within the annual H&M Conscious Exclusive Collection.

While H&M has seen some negative publicity surrounding accusations of excessive garment waste, the company actually said that it collected almost 18,000 tonnes of textiles through its garment collecting initiative. That’s the equivalent of 89 million T-shirts. And 61,000 tonnes of textiles have been collected since 2013.

And this spring, it will pilot its Take Care concept, “aimed at inspiring customers to prolong the lifespan of their garments through refreshing, remaking and repairing.”

It's also getting close to its goal of becoming a climate positive by 2040 and last year, 96% of H&M group’s electricity came from renewable sources. 

As can be seen from the Weekday initiative, the company’s brands are also individually playing their part and it said that Arket has launched a new way for customers to filter products based on country of production and material type – increasing the level of customer transparency.

And as far as the workers in its supply chain are concerned, it has been conducting workplace dialogue programmes, while all of its garment manufacturer units in Bangladesh have conducted democratic elections for worker representatives. In total, 2,882 people were elected and 40% of those were women.

Some 227 supplier factories, covering over 375,000 workers, also implemented improved wage management systems.

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