The H&M group Sustainability highlights 2016

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Our sustainability work

Fashion is what makes us tick – but how we affect the planet and the world around us is just as important. Today, fashion is a huge, complex industry but – at its heart – it’s still about turning raw materials (like cotton grown on a farm) into products. It requires natural resources, and does so in a way that can be harmful to the environment. To make sure coming generations can enjoy fashion as much as we do, we need to consume in a sustainable way and rethink how products are made and enjoyed today.

We believe in a holistic approach and that sustainable fashion goes way beyond materials.

Offering our customers collections with sustainably sourced materials is just one part. We want to ensure that every part of the fashion-making process – from cotton farm to customer – is shaped with a mindset on sustainability. Being one of the world’s largest fashion companies comes with great responsibility. If anyone has the size and scale to truly make a difference in the fashion industry, it’s us.

These are the highlights of our sustainability work during 2016. For further reading about our goals and progress on the journey towards a better fashion future, read our 2016 sustainability report.

Join us in a global fashion movement for the planet and together let’s make fashion sustainable and sustainability fashionable!

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Conscious Exclusive

At H&M, we are constantly on the lookout for innovative materials that can make our products more sustainable. This year our stunning Conscious Exclusive collection features pieces made from the ground-breaking material BIONIC®, a polyester made from recovered plastic from shorelines, protecting the oceans from plastic pollution.

We are committed to proving that sustainable fashion has a place on the red carpet as well as making it part of the standard offer in our stores.

We continually work with materials and processes that make our products more sustainable. In doing so, we contribute to the democratisation of sustainable fashion by making more environmentally friendly choices available to our customers. We also help lift these materials to scale and create demand for further innovation. In the long run, this can change the way fashion is produced by greatly reducing the need for raw materials, which in turn lightens the burden on our precious planet. Other sustainable materials in the Conscious Exclusive collection and in our other collections available throughout the year include fabrics such as recycled polyester, Tencel®, organic cotton and recycled plastic.

The Conscious Exclusive collection is available in around 160 H&M stores worldwide, as well as online from April 20.

This year we’re enhancing our transparency and you’ll be able to deep dive into the journey of every garment from the Conscious Exclusive Ladies collection at hm.com. There you can read about the materials, the factories where the garments were made and much more.


This is one of the beautiful gowns made from BIONIC® for this year’s Conscious Exclusive collection, a contemporary collection made from conscious materials to be worn at special events as well as for everyday dress up.

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Towards a brighter future:

96% of electricity used throughout our own operations comes from renewable sources.

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“There is no doubt; women working in H&M are free and fearless. The benefits provided by H&M give women confidence and the opportunity to grow both in their personal and professional lives” Niki Pandey, Department Manager at the
H&M store in Connaught Place, New Delhi.

The place to be

We are committed to offering all our employees equal opportunities – whoever they are and wherever they live. The H&M group is one of the biggest fashion companies in the world and we want to be the number one company for welcoming diversity and inclusiveness.

We are taking a proactive approach to creating the right conditions for equality throughout our business.

An example of this is how we actively reach out to potential female candidates in the Indian retail market, where there is a lower participation from women. H&M is working actively to increase women’s opportunities to take part in working life and make a career.

Although we always want the right person for the job regardless of gender, it’s important we make sure we have enough applications from both men and women.

In India, it can be difficult for women to work flexible hours due to state legislature. For example, in most Indian cities there are laws preventing women from working before 7am or after 8pm. Women should have equal opportunities for promotion, but these restricted working hours make this difficult (managers must be able to work after 8pm). By offering safe transport to and from work at these times and proactively working together with local legislative authorities, H&M has been granted exemptions from the rules.

We’re proud of the work we’re doing to make our workplace fair and equal – and we’re even more proud that our colleagues can feel the effect.

Made in…

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We are committed to choosing and rewarding suppliers who share our respect for people and the environment, and who are willing to work with us to improve their practices. We are constantly working with several international organisations and unions to create further improvements for garment workers, including trade union rights, collective bargaining and fair living wages. The H&M group helps to create jobs, consequently lifting people out of poverty, and contributing to economic growth and improved standards of living. Just during 2016, 13,000 jobs were created through the course of our business.


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This is Watsih. She is one of the 1.6 million people employed in the 1,800 factories around the world where our suppliers make our clothes. Watsih is 45 years old and works for one of our suppliers in Indonesia, Kahatex. They have been a supplier for the H&M group for more than 15 years and, just like us, are constantly working to improve their sustainability performance.

Watsih started working in the factory ten years ago as a sewing operator but was promoted to line leader after three years.

On her fifth year in the factory Watsih became a supervisor, and she believes that all women should aim forward in the industry and in their careers.

Her own ambition is to become department leader within the next few years. The factory where she works was established in 1979 as a knitting mill, but has developed into a multi-range factory that produces a variety of yarns and fabrics and everything from garments to socks and blankets. Located in Bandung, Indonesia, the area is surrounded by volcanic mountains, green tea plantations and experiences tropical climate all year round. Watsih lives in the same area as the factory, and can walk to work in 15 minutes. She says it’s ideal since she can have breakfast and dinner with her family and be home in time to spend the evenings with her two daughters.


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Meet Lian Huan Rong - one of the many talented persons behind the Conscious Exclusive collection. For the last eight years she has worked in Hangzhou Suntex; a factory in east China which specializes in woven products.  

During these years Lian Huan has seen many positive changes in the factory for her and her colleagues.

From the latest technology and upgraded machines, to better wages and a higher design and fashion value in the products. This year she has been part of creating the Conscious Exclusive collection, which she is very proud of since she previous years has seen the garments produced in the factory later worn by movie stars. Her dream is to open her own clothing store, with her own designs; both clothes and accessories. Developing her sewing skills in the factory and networking with people in the industry is part of the plan to achieve her dream.

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We increased our use of sustainably sourced cotton to now represent 43% of our entire cotton use. Our goal is that all cotton should come from sustainable sources by 2020.

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Conscious Beauty

In early 2016, we launched our conscious beauty collection which includes body, hand and hair care. All products are organic and certified by Ecocert, an independent 3rd party organisation that verifies that our conscious products are truly planet-friendly.

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A closer look at recycled materials

Imagine if we could make all new clothes out of used clothes? That would be the best way to stay updated on trends, but also making sure that coming generations will be able to enjoy fashion the way we do.

In September 2016, we launched our third close the loop collection, using post-consumer textile waste from collected garments. We also have other products in store all year around made of closed loop recycled materials from collected garments. Currently, over a fourth of our total material use is from recycled or other sustainably sourced materials.

We use a wide range of recycled materials at the H&M group including for example recycled cotton, polyester, wool, cashmere and plastic.

A recycled material is one made from waste, such as old textiles, production waste or used PET bottles. By using recycled material, we reduce three things: the amount of textiles going to landfill, the use of virgin raw materials (that we would otherwise need to produce new textiles), and the amount of chemicals, energy and water used in material production. 

Our recycled cotton is made from production waste or from collected garments, such as from H&M’s garment collecting initiative. Once collected, this fabric is ground into fibre, spun into new yarns and woven into new fabrics. Currently only 20% recycled cotton can be used in a new garment without compromising on quality, but we are investing in technology to overcome this challenge.

We are also one of the world’s biggest users of recycled polyester. In 2016, we used recycled polyester equivalent of more than 180 million PET bottles.

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Let’s be different: embracing diversity

One campaign that we are very proud of is For Every Victory, which celebrates every kind of victory, both personal and in sport. The video features an array of inspiring athletes who, no matter where they are from and what challenges they have been facing, made what seemed impossible, possible.

The runway in Paris for our H&M Studio 2016 A/W Fashion show had one of the most diverse casts of all times in Paris.

Models of different age, size, gender, and ethnicity walked the runway, all celebrating the independent and strong mind of women. To us, this casting reflected our values as a company, our colleagues and our customers. This is our reality - we are all about inclusiveness. We proudly celebrate the beauty of diversity in our global campaigns and our advertising policy is clear: we don’t want to promote a specific ideal, but rather show a variety of styles.

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Every piece counts. Since 2013 when we started our garment collecting, almost 39,000 tonnes of garments have been collected in our stores worldwide (thank you!) That's as much fabric as in 196 million t-shirts.

Did you know that…?

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  • We don’t own any factories. Instead, we work with around 800 suppliers all around the world.
  • These factories usually work for many different brands, and their working conditions and wages are the same, no matter the end price towards customer. What makes a difference is what a brand is doing to improve the conditions, both at the factory and in the community.
  • The Global Framework Agreement, which was signed in 2015 by H&M, IndustriALL and Swedish trade union IF Metall, proved to be effective. In 2016, it was signed again and is now a permanent collaboration to improve worker-employer dialogue at the suppliers producing for H&M.
  • The H&M group is one of the world’s largest users of organic cotton and recycled polyester.
  • We do not accept animal testing on any cosmetic products; we do not sell any real fur or angora wool and we apply some of the strictest standards for animal welfare worldwide.

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  • All cotton products at H&M’s Newborn department (sizes 44-68) are made from 100% organic cotton.
  • About 26% of the carbon emissions in a garment’s lifetime occur after it has left the store. By washing and caring for your clothes in a sustainable way, you contribute to a more sustainable fashion future!
  • For example, washing at 30 degrees instead of 60 degrees will cut energy consumption by half, and save you money too.
  • At clevercare.info, you can find inspiration on how to care for your clothes in a more environmentally friendly way, so you can wear them and love them year after year.
  • All our standard plastic bags are made from recycled plastic. This reduces waste, and their lightweight means easier transport and lower climate impact. By reusing them, you contribute to reducing the impact on our planet!

“Our partnership with the H&M group aims to address the most material environmental impacts across the company’s value chain with both short- and long-term perspectives. This supports the H&M group to lead by example and to inspire the industry about what can and should be done to address key issues, such as climate impact and water scarcity”

Jochem Verberne, Global Partnerships Director at WWF International.

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