PARIS — Hennes & Mauritz AB continues on its path to maximum sustainability.
This story first appeared in the April 10, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In its 13th annual conscious actions sustainability report published Thursday, the Swedish fast-fashion giant said 80 percent of its electricity use would come from renewable sources by the end of 2015, up from the current 27 percent.
The retailer reported it would also increase the amount of products made from recycled fibers by 300 percent by yearend.
In 2014, H&M collected 13,000 tons of textiles for reuse through its in-store garment-collecting program. That’s an equivalent of 65 million T-shirts. By 2020, that number is expected to rise to 100,000 tons.
Meanwhile, with its recycled polyester products, the brand recycled the equivalent of almost 40 million PET bottles.
To increase transparency, the company also decided to expand its public supplier list to include second-tier companies, which provide its “most important mills” with fabrics and yarns, responsible for about 35 percent of H&M products.
In addition, the retailer said it launched a new “animal-welfare road map” with the goal to use 100 percent certified wool starting in 2017 and certified down beginning this year.
Separately in London, H&M hosted a panel discussion on fashion and sustainability, where it covered various topics ranging from the Rana Plaza disaster to how brands can incorporate sustainability in their designs. Talking about labels and designers developing a more green-friendly attitude, Janet Mensink at Solidaridad, a company that focuses on sustainable supply chains, believed it could be achieved.
“What drives me crazy is that there is more opportunity and it is doable to make it in a more environmental and socially friendly way,” she lamented, adding, “H&M is leading in that and showing that it can be done. There are still a lot of companies or sectors [that] are hiding behind this line, ‘It cannot be done because we can’t control our supply chain,’ and I realize it’s complex…it doesn’t happen by itself. People need to collaborate. Organizations need to collaborate. The sector needs to change so you also need to engage the governments of the countries where these products are coming from.”
Peter McAllister, director of Ethical Trading Initiative, an alliance of businesses and trade unions that promotes workers’ rights, noted: “What drives me mad is that not enough board members think that [sustainability] is actually a business issue. Sometimes, I’m quite pleased about that because they will fail and then get out of the way. People are going to know that you can make fantastic products, you can make money, you can get consumer interests. The competitiveness in this industry is fierce. So let’s use that energy,” he said, encouraging consumers and media to speak up and show that there is a way forward, because “there are companies who are prepared to invest and change,” he added.
“It is really important to know that we can engage our customers, but that is not the only driving force for us when it comes to sustainability,” explained Anna Gedda, H&M’s head of sustainability. “For us, it is really about securing long-term. We need to have a sustainable resources supply to have a stable production market and, of course, we want to make sure that the customers in the future will care more about sustainability.”
“The key word in here is showing what happens in the factory and also being open about the investment and the gains businesswise,” Mensink said. “It is not just about wages or safety or chemicals. All these leading brands, they are seeing it as a holistic approach and they are transparent. I don’t believe hiding behind a loophole is good businesswise in terms of achieving sustainability in the long run.”