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H&M, Inditex Reaffirm Circular Economy Commitments Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

More than 50 companies, policymakers, philanthropists and academics, including Burberry, H&M, Inditex and Stella McCartney, have signed a statement promising to “step up, not step back” with their circular-economy commitments in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spearheaded by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and recently published in the Financial Times, the statement reaffirms the signatories’ desire to accelerate the transition to a circular economy by “creating solutions for plastics, fashion, food and beyond” that create economic opportunities with social and environmental benefits.

For fashion, the signatories pledge to “ensure clothes are used more, are made to be made again and are made from safe and renewable materials.”

“As we rise to the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the question is no longer should we build back better, but how,” said the statement, which has the backing of the Global Fashion Agenda, C&A’s Laudes Foundation and the Waste Resources Action Programme.

“Many have already called for a response to the devastating impacts of this pandemic that does not turn attention away from other global challenges such as climate change and pollution,” it continued. “The circular economy offers a solution for how to do so. By designing out waste, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems, it creates vital opportunities for economic growth that also restore the environment, create jobs and benefit society.”

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Now is the time, the statement said, to “build on this momentum and do more, not less” to eliminate what we don’t need, innovate new business models and materials, retool products and supply chains to regenerate nature, funnel capital toward circular solutions and build an economy that is “distributed, diverse and inclusive, rather than extractive, polluting and exploitative.”

“We must take the responsibility of our future together,” Helena Helmersson, CEO of the H&M Group, which has pledged to become “climate positive” by 2030, said in a separate statement. “Companies and governments have to collaborate, be transparent and show leadership in their transition to a circular economy. Taking steps back in what already has been achieved is not an option. We are committed to take our part, and to follow our vision of becoming circular and climate positive.”

The signatories are also urging governments, financial institutions and other businesses around the world to “join us on the journey towards a circular economy” by investing in circular economy solutions, raising the ambition of their circular economy targets and speeding up the delivery of those already on the table.

The call to action is one of many, including a recent entreaty by the British Fashion Council and Council of Fashion Designers of America, to rebuild a more just and resilient post-coronavirus economy for fashion and beyond amid the pandemic’s battery of financial blows.

The International Labour Organization previously warned that COVID-19’s aftermath could gut more than 25 million jobs worldwide and devastate global economies if governments do not unite in swift action.

H&M and Zara owner Inditex, two of the world’s largest apparel companies, are weathering their own fiscal tempests. H&M saw net sales fall by 50 percent in the three months to May 31, it said Monday. Last week, Inditex reported a net loss of 409 million euros ($465 million) from February through April, compared with a net profit of 734 million euros ($822.5 million) over the same period last year.