Use natural resources responsibly - our Conscious Actions
Read here about the Conscious Actions we are taking to fulfil our commitment to use natural resources responsibly.
Read here about the Conscious Actions we are taking to fulfil our commitment to use natural resources responsibly.
According to UNEP, by 2025, two thirds of the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas. At the same time, water is an important resource in clothing production. About one-third of the factories that apply wet processes in the manufacturing of our clothes are locatead in areas that are forecast to be affected by extreme water scarcity by 2025. That’s why for more than 10 years, we have worked actively to reduce negative water impact in different parts of the value chain. Now, together with WWF, we are taking this to a whole different level. In a three-year partnership, we will work towards implementing a holistic water stewardship strategy that aims to be a game-changer for our industry and beyond.
During 2011 and 2012, we performed a comprehensive evaluation of H&M’s existing efforts and challenges in connection to water with the WWF, identifying opportunities where we can have the biggest positive impact. This formed the base of our new water strategy, which includes over 30 water-connected activities along the entire textile value chain.
Starting already at the drawingtable stage, our designers and buyers will receive training on water impact of raw material production, as well as wet processes for different styles, to promote more sustainable choices. WWF and H&M will work in collaboration with public policy-makers, NGOs, water institutions and companies to support the better management of particular river basins in China and Bangladesh, improve our internal water efficiency, minimise our suppliers’ impact on water, train all our colleagues on water issues and inspire customers to use water responsibly. We will also support the WWF conservation projects for water in the Yangtze river basin in China. This is the first global water partnership of its kind. We hope that it will inspire others to follow.
Our direct operations have only minimal impact on water from a value chain perspective. This small impact notwithstanding, we want to set standards on best practice and reduce water use as much as possible.
We apply water-saving techniques wherever we can and have guidelines and requirements in place for example, low-flow taps. Our distribution centres in Hamburg, Ghlin and Madrid as well as a first store in the UK have rainwater-harvesting facilities in place. All together, we have harvested about 3 million litres of rainwater.
Conventional cotton and other natural fibres draw nutrients from the soil and may require a great deal of water, chemical pesticides and fertilisers. Conventional synthetic fibres are usually derived from fossil fuel that has limited availability.
Investing in more sustainable alternatives over conventional fibres reduces multiple impacts on the environment and may help reduce or secure costs in the mid- and long-term. It also helps us secure the availability of the raw materials needed for our future growth in a sustainable way. Our use of more sustainable cotton in 2012 alone meant estimated 140,000 kg fewer pesticides being used.
We monitor water efficiency at supplier factories, focusing on those located in water-scarce areas as defined by the WWF Water Risk Filter tool. We measure the use of water per kg of products made. While it can at times be a challenge to motivate suppliers to save in countries where water is very inexpensive (e.g. Bangladesh), we complement the monitoring with dedicated projects to drive water savings in denim production and through our Cleaner Production programme.
Producing denim can be particularly water-intense to achieve the desired looks. We found that better processes can save about 30 percent of the water used. So in 2009, to reduce this impact, we set up a project with suppliers in Bangladesh, China and later also Pakistan.
As part of this, we looked into how these water-management improvements could also help our suppliers
save water when making other water-intense products. Today, about 50 percent of all our denim is made
using these techniques and we are working hard to apply these to more and more suppliers and product
types. In 2012 alone, this reduced water usage by estimated 450 million litres compared to conventional production processes.
Since 2006, factories with wet processes such as dyeing or washing, have been required to treat their wastewater. Wastewater quality in our supply chain has to meet quality levels defined by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Water Group, or relevant local laws, depending on which are stricter. These requirements form part of our supplier audit programme.
Water quality measures include organic and chemical pollution levels and suspended solids within the wastewater such as total suspended solids (TSS), biological oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD). The graph shows the ratio of supplier factories in the lowest threshold for each of these indicators measured against the BSR standard. The more factories there are in the lowest threshold, the better the result. The data show an increased proportion of factories in the best threshold for all three measures, whilst the number of reporting factories has decreased. We will continue to monitor this development with relevant suppliers and, wherever needed, request dedicated action plans to improve performance. As part of the process to implement our started more to do on track time scale ongoing
new water strategy, in 2013 we plan to focus on strategic suppliers in high-risk regions (identified through
WWF Water Risk Filter) to further increase compliance and develop best practice examples and related tools to achieve full compliance.
Water efficiency and the quality of discharged wastewater are key challenges for the long-term viability and growth of the textile sector in general. This is especially relevant for Bangladesh, a country frequently threatened by floods while facing a growing scarcity of drinking water.
As part of our holistic water stewardship strategy, we have now broadened the scope of the work previously part of our Cleaner Production Programme in Bangladesh. Once again, we are joining forces with our previous project partner, Solidaridad, in addition to a number of other brands and IFC (World Bank Group) in a programME called Bangladesh Water PaCT (Partnership for Clean Textiles). This programme will have a broader reach targeting 500 factories with aligned methods and targets through the Bangladeshi textile sector. At the same time, the scope has been broadened in terms of its ambition and has now taken the challenge of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals into account. The overarching objective is to reduce environmental and related social impact that results from prevailing practices in textile wet processing, particularly excessive ground water extraction and surface water pollution, whilst including energy and chemical use. Programme results will improve the environmental impact of the textile sector in Bangladesh and strengthen its long-term competitiveness. Working in partnership with buyers, solution providers, financial institutions, donors, the government and other key stakeholders, the program will support textile factories and concentrated selected geographic clusters in order to reduce their water footprints.
Since 1995, we have been working to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals. As a leading actor with a well-reputed chemicals management approach, we have the scale and ability to go beyond just ensuring that our own products are safe. We try to encourage change within our entire industry – a huge challenge, but one that we take very seriously. That is why in 2011 we teamed up with five other leading brands to develop a joint roadmap. We have also initiated a set of complementary individual actions.
We have made good progress with both the joint roadmap as well as our H&M-specific action plan. The defined actions are well in line with our existing sustainability program and build on an extensive record of experiences and achievements.
Accordingly, we can already report on progress against several of these actions points. Several more brands have joined the group since the launch with currently 10 brands on board.
Detailed benchmark studies will continue and results will be published on a dedicated website together with quarterly progress reports. In line with our action plan, we have added further transparency to our publicly-available chemical restriction list. We are currently working with the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), an independent organisation in China, together with other brands and suppliers on the matter of discharge data disclosure. Acknowledging the ‘Right To Know’ principle, we encouraged and supported 11 strategic factories in China to publicly disclose discharge data through dedicated tools on IPE’s website.
Additionally, we have conducted extensive benchmark studies including in-depth chemical audits with all our strategic suppliers in China, India, Bangladesh and Cambodia. We have continued to strengthen our existing chemical auditing as well as our work together with the group to develop a joint chemical audit tool, working to set a standard and achieve alignment within the industry.
Parallel to further advancing our leading chemical management, we are integrating the concerned chemical groups in our supplier training and dialogue.
And as already announced independently from our commitment to zero discharge, we have issued a full ban on PFCs for all our products and have made further progress in the replacement of solvent-based polyurethane with water-based alternatives.
Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are commonly used to make water-repellent products such as raincoats. Unfortunately, they are persistent and bio-accumulative, meaning that if discharged into the environment they remain for a long time. Once released into the environment, they can harm the reproduction of organisms. For many years we have been working to replace PFCs with better alternatives.
In 2010, after five years of hard work sourcing and testing alternatives, we introduced our first products made with a treatment called ‘Bionic finish’ which proved to be a good PFCfree alternative. Since then, we have continued to work closely with our suppliers to find additional alternatives helping us to bring PFC-free innovations to scale.
From 1 January 2013, PFCs were banned from all our products globally. This means that all orders placed from 1 January or later have been produced without PFCs. The current alternatives fulfil our demands for water repellent products and have satisfactory environmental and health properties. They can be used on all present fabric qualities in our range.
We restrict hazardous chemicals through our restrictions list, which all suppliers are contractually bound to comply with. Our Chemical Restrictions list has been continually updated since 1995, most recently in 2012. It now contains more than 360 restricted substances. Our restrictions are some of the most stringent in the industry and and often go well beyond legislative demands.
As stated in our Sustainability Policy, we apply the Precautionary Principle. This means that we are proactive in restricting chemicals, even if there is still scientific uncertainty about whether they are harmful. To ensure this, we always keep ourselves up to date on the latest developments and consider information from authorities, NGOs and scientific reports.
We made the restrictions list public many years ago. In 2012, we published an updated restriction list now also disclosing restriction levels for all non-textile products, for example, cosmetics.
Handling solvent-based chemicals can be harmful to workers, so we aim to phase out their use in the production of our products wherever technically feasible.
In cooperation with the chemical company Bayer, we conducted trials to convert traditional solvent-based polyurethane (PU) material into water-based PU. We tested a range of alternatives that could be used for different product types and styles. The first results were very promising, but ensuring quality and scalability remains a challenge.
In 2012, we launched the first products made with water-based PU and we will continue to work to find solutions that can meet our requirements to scale this up.
We sell clothes and accessories through mail order catalogues and online sales in eight different markets.
For several years, our catalogues have been printed on paper that bears the EU flower eco-label, which stands for environmentally conscious production processes and limited water impact. In the coming year, we want to ensure that the paper we use is made from FSC certified forests.
Palm oil cultivation is a contributor to deforestation and climate change, and has a direct impact on natural habitat and wildlife. H&M is a small user of palm oil.
In 2012, 92 tonnes were used mainly as an ingredient in our candles and in some cosmetic products. Nevertheless, we want to help driving demand for sustainable palm oil and raise awareness on the related issues. That´s why we want 100% of the palm oil used to make our products to be RSPO certfified by 2015 the latest.
Since 2011, we also purchase GreenPalm certificates for 100% of the palm oil used in our products (including derivatives). GreenPalm is a certificate trading programme which is designed to tackle the environmental and social problems created by the production of palm oil.
H&M has defined seven ambitious commitments on sustainability which we work hard every day to achieve.