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Fashion Revolution Criticizes H&M’s World Recycle Week

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Fashion Revolution, the U.K.-based grassroots campaign founded to commemorate the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, is calling on consumers to “remember the true heroes.”

On Apr. 24 last year, the nonprofit encouraged people to post selfies that show the labels of their apparel on social media using the hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes?, with the goal of getting manufacturers to respond with photos of their workers.

The reaction: the hashtag alone received 124 million impressions and Fashion Revolution said its content was viewed more than 14 billion times. That’s why this year the campaign has been extended to one week and is set to take place Apr. 18-24.

However, H&M recently announced that World Recycle Week will take place at the same time and that it wants to collect 1,000 tons of unwanted garments from customers over the seven-day period in a bid to close the loop in fashion. The Swedish retailer is also asking them to film clips showing the pieces they’re recycling and to post them on social media using the hashtag #HMrehaul.

“Recycling is a huge and important challenge that faces the entire garment industry across the supply chain. Why is H&M doing this in apparent isolation—single-handedly declaring this (of all the weeks they could have chosen) ‘World Recycle Week’ without collaboration or support from any other brands? In our experience, big industry-wide problems require industry-wide solutions,” Fashion Revolution’s global coordination team wrote in a blog post on the campaign’s website.

The nonprofit acknowledged that H&M does more than most fast-fashion retailers when it comes to social and environmental issues, but criticized it for not being upfront about the fact that only a small fraction of that 1,000 tons will be turned into new textile fibers.

The post went on to quote statistics from a World Economic Forum study that said as much as 60 percent of the clothing amassed by H&M’s Garment Collecting initiative is sold as secondhand across the world.

It also pointed to a report published by the Clean Clothes Campaign, the International Labor Rights Forum, the Maquila Solidarity Network, and the Worker Rights Consortium, which slammed the retailer’s failure to meet mandated timeframes for fire and building safety repairs in Bangladesh.

“The focus on recycling during such a crucial week for garment workers seems like a way of diverting attention from the fact that not enough is being done to protect the people who make H&M’s clothes—the workers helping fuel over 3,900 H&M stores and $28 billion in sales they did last year,” Fashion Revolution said.

But the nonprofit admitted that H&M is not the only brand being dishonest about their practices with their consumers and said that the fact the retailer is making an effort to address the world’s textile waste problem is a step in the right direction.

The post concluded, “We ask that during Fashion Revolution Week you remember the true heroes, the people that are working invisibly to clothe you, the ones that may never get to wear, let alone consume the clothes they make for you.”

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