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H&M Strengthens Circular Fashion Vision with Sustainability Goals

H&M is betting on a more circular fashion industry with its latest sustainability goals focused on improving innovation, material use and collaborative transparency.

In its 2017 Sustainability Report, the retailer outlined progress on its 2020 and 2030 goals, including sourcing only sustainable cotton by 2020, using only recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030 and becoming climate-positive across its supply chain by 2040.

H&M divided its sustainability approach in three main pillars: 100 Percent Leading the Change, 100 Percent Circular & Renewable, and 100 Percent Fair & Equal. The aim, for H&M, has been—and continues to be—doing its part to lessen the fashion industry’s carbon footprint.

Circularity and transparency

According to H&M, innovation is key to achieving full circularity, advancing sustainable material innovations and enabling consumers to benefit from supply chain transparency.

To help the it get to a more circular supply chain, H&M collaborated with Re:newcell, a company that uses technology to recycle used cotton, viscose and other cellulosic-based fibers into new textile fibers. The retailer also became one of the two main investors in Treetotextile, a company developing an eco-friendly textile fiber based on forest raw materials.

Last year, H&M piloted a customer-facing transparency layer for the launch of its Conscious Exclusive Collection on that allowed consumers to filter products based on material type and country of production. After positive feedback from consumers, H&M is including this feature again for its 2018 Conscious Exclusive collection. In 2017, H&M Group also debuted Arket, a new brand focused on sustainable design and supply chain visibility. This Spring, H&M will launch Take Care, a program designed to inspire consumers to prolong the lifespan of their clothing through repairing, refreshing and remaking it.

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H&M also indicated progress on supply chain transparency. Last year, 1,860 desktop validations and 1,589 onsite validations were conducted to measure sustainability performance of the company’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 factories. According to H&M, its supplier list includes information on Tier 1 factories for 98.5% of its products and Tier 2 factories for 60 percent of its products. In addition, 60 percent of H&M’s Tier 2 factories applied the Higg Index facility module, a suite of tools that enable apparel brands to accurately measure and score a product’s sustainability performance. These efforts elevated H&M’s compliance score to 88 percent, since the retailer completed nearly 10,000 safety and security audits globally last year.

Renewable and recyled

H&M is furthering its progress in sustainability by reducing emissions, sourcing from more sustainable material sources and recycling textiles for apparel production.

Last year, 96 percent of H&M Group’s electricity came from renewable resources and the retailer reduced emissions from its own operations by an additional 21 percent compared to 2016. Eighty-four percent of H&M’s business partner factories also complied with wastewater quality requirements defined by BSR, a global non-profit that aims to minimize the industry’s use of energy and water in supply chains.

According to Better Cotton Initiative’s (BCI) 2016 annual report, H&M is the biggest buyer of Better Cotton, or cotton from more sustainable resources. In 2017, 59 percent of the cotton H&M used came from sustainable sources, including recycled and organic cotton. The retailer introduced its first apparel made from Bionic, a recycled shoreline waste material, in its 2017 Conscious Exclusive Collection, and Weekday, an H&M Group fashion brand, also launched its first recycled polyester swimwear line.

H&M collected 17, 771 tons of textiles through its garment collecting initiative in 2017, which it said amounts roughly to 89 million T-shirts. This represents a 12 percent increase from the number of textiles the company collected for recycling and reuse in 2016.

Fair and equal

H&M relaunched its company values across its supply chain last year as well, including improving wage management systems, fortifying workplace safety and encouraging democratic practices among garment workers.

For 2017, 458 supplier factories and more than 620,000 workers were impacted by H&M’s workplace dialogue programs, assessment programs designed for heightened wellness and professional development. Adding to that, 227 supplier factories, which covered more than 375,000 workers and 40 percent of H&M’s total product volume, enforced improved wage management programs.

To further promote industry-wide collective bargaining agreements and fair living wages worldwide, H&M said it will continue collaboration with labor groups, including the IndustriALL Global Union, and assess diversity within its own supply chain with the appointment of a global leader for diversity and inclusiveness.