Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability and her team lead our work towards a more sustainable fashion future.
What are your most important sustainability goals?
- Resource management, social responsibility, and transparency.
-Our vision is to achieve a circular business model and to get there we need to radically decrease the use of virgin raw material and carefully monitor how we use our resources. The ambition is a process where nothing is wasted; where garments are collected and recycled into new collections so that we use what’s already in the system instead of using new raw material. There are still technical challenges to overcome before we are there, but we focus a lot of our work and resources on finding innovations that work on a larger scale so that we can eventually make a fully circular process possible.
- The second aspect is our social responsibility. The textile industry is largely based in highly complex markets, such as Cambodia and China, where awareness of social issues is a major challenge. To give the textile workers better conditions, we are implementing fair living wages, strengthening unions and working to improve the dialogue between workers and employers. This is crucial to achieve better working conditions. We are well aware of the challenges that exist in the textile industry and the work that remains, but we can see that our work makes a difference and that development is moving in the right direction. Through our business we contribute to createing job opportunities for 1.6 million people employed by our suppliers around the world.
- Finally, we want to further increase transparency on our products, production, and sustainability performance. Knowing how and where something is produced is crucial. Not just for our own work towards improvements, but also to make it possible for our customers to make sustainable choices in their everyday lives.
How is this approach reflected in the production?
- A pair of jeans from H&M’s Conscious Denim collection is just one example of many illustrating how sustainability goals influence every part of the process. The sustainability work begins even before these jeans are designed as we already know that they will feature recycled fibers from old garments collected in our stores. Collected garments are mechanically broken down and new threads are spun from a combination of these fibers and new cotton, which we need to add for strength. Once the technology is in place to do this chemically rather than mechanically, we’ll be able to produce fully recycled products.
But it doesn’t stop with the material, right?
- Not at all. Our designers make sure waste materials and changes to the designs - which can be problematic for manufacturers - are kept to a minimum. We keep a careful eye on environmental and social factors throughout the raw material extraction, fabric manufacturing, and garment production phases, minimising the use of water, energy, and toxic chemicals while also ensuring the people who make our products work under good conditions. We also transport our products using ships and trains as much as we can in order to lower CO2 emissions. In the store, our employees work under good conditions and take great care to communicate and explain these ideas to our customers. And the customers, in turn, hopefully take great care of the garments they buy, and hand them back in for recycling when the garments have reached the end of their lives. The collected garments are broken down into fibers, and the loop is closed.
- The first Conscious Denim collection was launched in 2014; on average using 56% less water and 58% less energy than comparable denim.
- The products are made with 20% recycled cotton generated from consumer waste.
- Recycled cotton saves raw materials, stops old clothes going to waste and means we use less resources like chemicals, water and land.