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ESG Outlook: Hanna Hallin of Treadler on Scaling Up Sustainable Sourcing

ESG Outlook is Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to get their take on their company’s latest environmental, social and governance initiatives and their own personal efforts toward sustainability. In this Q&A, Hanna Hallin, director of sustainability at Treadler, a B2B service initiated by the H&M Group, discusses how it’s working to help get more of the industry to scale up sustainable sourcing. 

Name: Hanna Hallin

Title: Head of sustainability

Company: Treadler, division of H&M Group

What do you consider to be your company’s best ESG-related achievement?

Treadler launched in March 2020 and I believe we can all agree that this has not been a year of “business of usual” for anyone, however we see that the need for more sustainable sourcing at scale is more relevant than ever.

H&M Group has actively invested significant time and resources to bring its supply chain to the level it is today. The group realized that by offering access to its supply chain, knowledge and experience to other brands they can support them in accelerating towards a more sustainable sourcing and sustainable assortment, from one season to the next, leveraging the data we have not only to make better decisions but also to engage their customers.

Looking at our first year as an official business, we are proud to have achieved a 100 percent rollout of Higg FEM & Higg FSLM to Tier 1 and Tier 2, where all verified data will be available end of September. The advantage with the Higg Index data compared to compliance audits is that we can enable strategic sourcing for our clients, ensuring that the orders they place help them achieve their sustainability goals and reward more progressive factories. This way our partnership can be part of leading the change to a better fashion future.

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What is your personal philosophy on shopping and caring for your clothes? 

I got engaged in the fair trade and sustainable consumption movement as a volunteer trainer and campaigner as a student. It was such powerful insight to me that the choices I make when I go shopping could have a fundamental impact on the options for a young woman of my age on the other side of the world.

At that point I was already a vintage lover thanks to my parents and aunts who never threw away a garment, and my grandmas who sewed and knit a lot. I choose materials carefully, spot clean them and use soap nuts or certified detergents (found at all H&M Group brands). I always have a basket of shoes and clothes to repair. We could all give some more love to what we’ve got!

How much do you look into a brand’s social or environmental practices before shopping? 

My knowledge of a brand’s performance is probably above average, so I do take it into consideration and I prefer clothes made from sustainable and durable fabrics. But the real game changer for our industry will be a transparent standard enabling customers to compare across brands and choose garments aligning with our values. This is why the Higg Index transparency layer with facility, material and brand data is so anticipated and exciting.

I embrace all innovation in terms of reusable items, packaging and zero waste options. My top three daily reusable items would be the washable cotton pads from H&M Home, my loyal menstrual cup since 10 years, and my foldable coffee cup. And of course, my bike that takes me to and from the office every day here in Sweden (pre/post-pandemic)!

What would you say is the biggest misconception consumers have about sustainability in fashion?

There is still a misunderstanding of the sustainability level in production in Bangladesh. Thanks to all the consumer movements, there has been a tremendous change over the past decade. Our Bangladesh suppliers exporting to European brands have large professional factories with robust management systems, as well as important social and environmental programs that make a difference for their employees and communities. They regularly report sustainability performance using the industry standard Higg index, enabling them to track progress toward progressive sustainability goals. We see that they outperform global averages.

What was your company’s biggest takeaway from the Covid crisis? 

It is in extraordinary situations, such as this current pandemic, that we see how interconnected human health and planetary health are. Covid-19 has had devastating effects on people and their livelihoods, disrupted supply chains and deepened inequalities, while at the same time we continue to face a global climate emergency with irreversible effects for people and all the natural systems we depend on.

We also see a deepened interest for sustainability from brands and from end-consumers where collective responsibility across the value chain is expected. To be able to navigate the current and future crises, more supply chain agility and flexibility will be key. Meanwhile, the lack of product flow visibility during the crisis highlighted the importance of reliable and transparent partnerships.

What do you consider to be the apparel industry’s biggest missed opportunity related to securing meaningful change?

No one can make the journey from compliance to true sustainable change overnight, but based on my experience, there are three key factors to move the needle as a brand/buyer. You need to start out by choosing the right partners, you need to be a fair partner yourself, and you need to integrate sustainability into your business and make it measurable. That might sound easy, but we all know it is anything but. There are a lot of business barriers and resources required to achieve the sustainable change needed in our industry. We aim to help brands overcome some of those initial business barriers and enable them to reach their sustainability goals.