Though previous iterations of the initiative included somewhat ambiguous guidelines related to positive global change, this year’s program has a laser-sharp focus that organizers say will help teams create an innovation that could have a major impact on the world. H&M Foundation is calling specifically for game-changing solutions that address one or several global areas: land, water, oceans, climate and biodiversity.
“It’s evident from the many climate reports as well as this past summer’s climate disasters around the world that planetary and social sustainability are deeply interlinked,” Erik Bang, innovation lead at H&M Foundation, told Rivet. “Climate change will affect the poorest and most vulnerable communities the most. Accelerating a planet-positive fashion industry will help secure not just jobs, but also fundamental living conditions for millions of people.”
Bang added that the world is in dire need of more social responsibility, and addressing the climate crisis will help achieve that. “While Global Change Award is looking for solutions addressing climate change, it is very much about protecting people and securing their future. With a planet-positive mindset, the fashion industry can operate in ways that regenerate instead of deplete earth’s resources, and we all thrive and prosper from a stable, resilient planet,” he said.
The foundation is inviting innovators and entrepreneurs to submit their early stage ideas on how to improve the sustainable footprint of the fashion industry. Applicants can apply through the H&M Foundation website through Oct. 20. Entries are reviewed by H&M Foundation together with Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology—both of which have partnered with the company on this program since launch.
Entries will also be reviewed by an international panel of experts, including Dr. Lin Li, director of global policy and advocacy at WWF International; Rachel Cernansky, senior sustainability editor at Vogue Business; Mirna Inez Fernandez, co-founder of Reaccion Climatica; Malin Åkerman, actress; Caroline Brown, managing director at Closed Loop Partners; Betelhem Dessie, CEO at ICog, Anyone Can Code; Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, actress; and Walden Lam, co-founder and CEO at Unspun.
“We seek tomorrow’s game changers, so the innovation needs to be something not yet on the market or not yet implemented,” Bang said. “It should have the potential to scale and be economically sustainable, and the innovation team must be committed to making a difference.”
In April 2022, the team will select five winners who will receive a 1 million euro ($1.17 million) grant and get access to the program’s year-long GCA Impact Accelerator, which will fuel accelerated scaling and coaching from a network of renowned experts in the industry. It will also offer winning teams with inspiring digital sessions and meetups at key locations. Bang noted that this year the expert panel will play a more active role and have even more interaction with the teams throughout the accelerator.
Since its launch in 2015, the program—which has been referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Fashion”—has received more than 20,000 entries from across the world. Last year, the grand prize winner was Galy—which was also selected for Fashion For Good’s Accelerator Program—for its Incredible Cotton innovation that engineers cotton in a lab to lessen the burden of traditional cotton farming. French fashion startup Fairbrics also earned a winning spot for its Airwear product that converts greenhouse gas into sustainable polyester. Using literal air, it’s able to produce carbon negative synthetic fibers.
Winners from previous years include Circular.Fashion, which developed a digital system that gives designers knowledge and tools on how to design with recyclable intent, and Dimpora, which created a biodegradable and mineral-based membrane for outdoor wear.