When we talk about our value chain, we mean the full range of activities it takes for us to bring our products to the market – from idea to distribution, and consumption to disposal or recycling.
Sustainability is a natural part of everything we do. The designer’s drawing board is the first step towards a conscious fashion choice. Choosing material, look, style, and quality – this is where it all starts. Beyond the obvious, like what ends up on the cutting floor - the materials and looks chosen by the designer will have an effect on the environment and people across our value chain.
Processing raw materials such as cotton, is a part of the value chain often associated with concerns for working conditions and intense water and chemical use. By making the right choices using a wide range of environmentally friendly cotton and other conscious materials, we can significantly reduce impacts at this stage.
Fabric and yarn production
From making yarn to final fabrics, there are concerns regarding water, chemicals and working conditions as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Generally speaking, we do not have direct business relationships with mills. However, we are still working to improve their sustainability performance and have so far integrated the fabric and yarn mills involved in making about 50% of our products into our supplier audit system, aiming for 60% in 2016. We also have one of the strictest Chemical Restrictions List in the industry.
H&M group does not own any factories; instead we work with independent suppliers. Many of our products are made in some of the world’s poorest countries, and garment production is often the first step on the way out of poverty for many of these countries. Together with our suppliers, we have made great improvements in developing better social and environmental standards at the factories. Achieving fair living wages, reducing overtime and ensuring workplace safety are key focus areas.
We want to encourage dialogue between factory owners and textile workers, and consequently collaborate with organisations such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Fair Wage Network and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).
Transport represents around 6% of the greenhouse gas emissions in a garment’s lifecycle. By choosing the right modes of transport, we can reduce this impact even further. We use ships and trains to transport over 90% of our products from the suppliers to our warehouses. We also set standards to encourage the transport companies we use, to make more environmentally friendly decisions.
We have 4,400 stores across 65 markets. As we grow, enter new markets and employ new people, we need to make sure we live up to our values across the organisation and ensure an inspiring and healthy working environment for our colleagues. For example, we use renewable energy in our stores, offices and warehouses wherever this is credibly available and feasible. We ensure the data privacy of our customers and colleagues, as well as advertising in a responsible way.
So, what happens after the fashion leaves the store and is in your hands? Caring for the clothes at home represents about 26% of all of the greenhouse gas emissions in a garment’s life. This is why we want to inspire you to be conscious in the way you care for your clothes. For example, washing your garments at 30°C instead of 60°C and hanging your laundry up to dry will cut energy use – and save you money. Should the day come when you no longer want a garment; we consider it our job to make it as easy as possible for you to recycle it, no matter what brand or condition the garment is in.
As much as 95% of all textiles thrown away across the globe each year could be recycled. Far too much textiles end up in landfill, which goes without saying; is bad for the environment. Think about the amounts of natural resources that could be saved if it was possible to reprocess the textile fibres in the old clothes – and create new fashion pieces. With this in mind, in 2013 we launched the world’s biggest retail garment collecting system. We have already launched collections containing 20% recycled cotton from our garment collecting program.