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H&M Grants $1.1M to Five Innovations for a Greener Fashion Industry

H&M is providing major funding to five sustainable innovations that could combat today’s dirty fashion industry.

The Swedish apparel retailer is granting 1 million euros (or $1.1 million) to the five winners of its first Global Change Award, an innovation challenge created by the H&M Foundation last year. The awarded group included: Make Waste-Cotton New, a Finnish initiative that would transform waste cotton into new textiles; The Polyester Digester, a U.S.-based plan that proposed using microbes to reuse waste polyester textiles; Italy’s 100 Percent Citrus proposal, which would design textiles from citrus by-products; a textile leftovers online market idea developed in Estonia; and a Netherlands proposal to cultivate textile fiber under water.

The competition generated over 2,000 applications, which asked candidates to present ideas that could protect the planet, reduce carbon footprint and establish a future circular fashion industry. Winners were selected by an international expert panel and the public was invited to vote on how H&M’s donation would be distributed among the five innovators. Today, the H&M Foundation is initiating the second Global Change Award.

“After seeing so many fantastic innovations from around the world with the potential to transform the fashion industry, we have been very eager to open up the next round of the Global Change Award,” H&M CEO and H&M Foundation board member Karl-Johan Persson said. “I am also honored to welcome some new members to the expert panel like Dame Ellen MacArthur, who besides making solo sailor history in 2005, has immense knowledge about the transition to a circular economy.”

Establishing a more environmentally-friendly fashion industry isn’t just about upcycling apparel from consumers. For 2016’s Global Change Award, the H&M foundation added three new categories for applicants: circular business models (ideas that expand the life of fashion products), circular materials (ideas that focus on new recycling techniques and fibers), and circular processes (ideas that change chemical methods in global garment supply chains).

“By bringing together innovators to develop positive solutions, the Global Change Award is a great example of the approach needed to create change, and help shift the fashion industry towards a restorative and regenerative circular economy,” said the eponymous founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

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Other 2015 Global Change Award panel judges included University of Arts London sustainable textile professor Rebecca Earley, Stockholm Environment Institute executive director Johan L. Kuylenstierna, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute president Lewis Perkins, 1Qbit Information Technologies Inc. chairman David Roberts, Vogue Italia Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani, World Bank Group head of climate and carbon finance Vikram Widge and supermodel Amber Valletta.

2016 Global Change Award applications are open now until Oct. 31 and expert panel selection will begin this fall as well.