Fashion Sustainability in Progress: H&M

Source: https://pixabay.com/en/people-woman-girl-female-shopping-2594683/

This is the 2nd article in a bimonthly series where we will look at the most selling brands in the fashion industry in the year 2016-17. Interbrand, a global brand consultancy, reported Best Global Brands of 2017. Ten luxury and apparel companies made their mark in the top 100. Each blog post would probe into these companies for environmental and social performance by highlighting their progress. Stay tuned for this bimonthly series looking into their sustainability efforts.

Ranking on Best Global Brands of 2017: H&M is at 23 out of 100.

Fashion Transparency Index Final Score: 41-50% Brands scoring over 40% are those who are most likely to be publishing more detailed supplier lists, some will be publishing processing facilities as well as manufacturers — in addition to detailed information about their policies, procedures, social and environmental goals, supplier assessment and remediation processes and general assessment findings. These brands are also more likely to be addressing the Spotlight Issues such as living wages, collective bargaining and/ or circular resources.

Third party verification of report: Yes. Ernst & Young AB.

Reporting Standard: This report is prepared in accordance with the GRI Standards: Core Option. Organizations have the choice between “in accordance – core” and “in accordance – comprehensive”, depending on the comprehensiveness of the disclosures made.

Insights from the its sustainability report:

Waste and resource conservation:

  • Collaborated with Cradle-to-Cradle Products Innovation Institute to help support industry-wide demand and supply of sustainable materials.
  • The Global Change Award innovation challenge, initiated by the H&M Foundation in 2015 aims to find new ideas to help close the loop on textiles. Each year, an expert panel annually selects five winners that share a grant of EUR 1 million and gain access to a one-year innovation accelerator provided by the H&M Foundation, Accenture and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.
  • Clever Care Label: In 2016, we have also launched an extended garment care information page online. This information helps customers care for their clothes in a way that makes them last longer, including making simple repairs and washing less.
  • Conscious Exclusive, C/O Cheap Monday Capsule Collection, and Closed Loop 2016 collections are an example of how our design can be used to expand a product’s lifespan or allow for reuse and recyclability.
  • Together with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, they have developed a tool to assess the circularity of our non-commercial goods, such as store interiors. The tool will be used from 2017 onwards and aims to increase the sustainability of the non-commercial goods we buy. The tool will also support their dialogue with suppliers, helping increase awareness of circularity in their products and processes.
  • H&M Foundation and The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) have entered a four-year partnership to develop the required technologies to recycle blended textiles into new fabrics and yarns.
  • Developed incentives for our customers to create positive behavioural change through the H&M Club and for those who recycle their clothes via their garment collection programme.
  • Collaborated with the innovation company Worn Again saw some promising technologies in development for textile-to-textile recycling.
  • In 2016, H&M commissioned a Life Cycle Assessment study to understand the impact of closing the loop by recycling cotton. The study showed that by using recycled cotton fibre instead of virgin cotton fibre, we can reduce climate and water impacts by 80–90% for the stages up to when the fibre is ready for spinning. Unfortunately, it is not currently possible to use more than 20% recycled cotton from collected garments in a product (because of quality issues), but they are investing in technology to overcome this challenge.

Sustainability performance

●      Collaborated with Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) to build a Higg Index tool to measure the sustainability performance of apparel and footwear. The Higg Index measures environmental, social and labour impacts, presents a score and identifies areas for improvement. It was one of the first global fashion companies to roll out the facility module of the Higg Index to all of its first tier factories, followed by second tier factories that represent 56% of the H&M group’s total business volume. Over the last few years, they have developed a supplier assessment programme called the SIPP – the Sustainable Impact Partnership Programme. This is based on the Higg Index facility module as well as their own KPIs (for now).

 

Transparency

 

●      In 2016, the H&M group collaborated with Control Union on a pilot traceability system for organic cotton and viscose. It is a web-based system that allows suppliers to record incoming and outgoing shipments and provide transaction records and a QR code for each one. Selected suppliers from all tiers were trained to use the system for this pilot, which enabled fibre to garment traceability. The pilot was a success and they now plan to scale up the system to cover the entire viscose supply chain over the next few years.

Sustainable procurement

 

●      H&M is the biggest user of responsibly sourced down.

●      H&M is the second largest user of recycled polyester in the world.

●      H&M is the world’s biggest user of Better Cotton.

●      96% of electricity used in their own operations comes from renewable sources.

●      The H&M group works with indirectly with mills - 1,826 first tier factories of which 508 are based in EMEA and 1,318 in Southeast Asia. It works directly with organisations such as Solidaridad and the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) to help mills improve their performance. In doing so, it has integrated fabric and yarn mills that are involved in making about 56% of its products into their supplier assessment system.

●      H&M is the second largest user of Tencel®Lyocell (also known as Lyocell). Lyocell is produced in a closed loop system and has a lower environmental impact than other man-made cellulosic fibres. Tencel® is a brand owned by fibre manufacturer, Lenzing. The generic name for the material is Lyocell. The H&M group considers only Tencel® manufactured by Lenzing as a conscious material.

●      In 2016, H&M helped develop the Responsible Wool Standard in a project led by the Textile Exchange. It is now working to get RWS-certified wool into their supply chain.

 

Investment

 

●      CO:LAB, an internal investment team makes investments in sustainable fashion, innovative business models and technology enablers, and looks for companies with a strategic match to our business.

●      Invested in Sellpy, a Swedish start-up that offers an on-demand service to help people sell items they no longer use, to help them develop and scale their sustainable retail concept – a new and exciting way to shop that aligns well with our own business concept of fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way.

 

Organic

●      The H&M group was one of the founding partners of the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) which was launched in 2016. The OCA is a foundation created to accelerate the organic cotton market and find solutions to issues that the industry is facing.

●      They also launched its new Conscious Beauty range of organically produced products for skin, hair and body in March 2016.

 

Training & employee engagement

 

●      H&M regularly trains their design and buying office on sustainable material use. They have a specific Conscious Material Course that covers both the why and the how of their work with materials approved as ‘conscious’, as well as a company strategy for sustainable material use.

●      In 2016, a team of H&M group chemists has undergone training in Green Screen hazard assessment, a robust and transparent scientific method of identifying chemicals of high concern and suggesting safer alternatives.

●      In 2016, H&M we ran a Hazardous Substances Control training pilot for 93 suppliers in China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India and Turkey. They compared the assessment results before and after the training and saw a significant improvement in areas relating to chemical risk identification and chemical monitoring through technical information.

 

Environmental performance assessment

●      The environmental emission evaluator (E cube/ BVE3) is a measurement and monitoring tool from Bureau Veritas that was launched in 2016. It helps suppliers assess their performance and proactively improve their chemical usage and discharge performance. In 2016, H&M started a pilot project at 29 suppliers in China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Turkey to test the online version of this tool.

●      H&M received an “AVANT-GARDE” grading in Greenpeace detox assessment in 2016, which means that they are a detox-committed company that is ahead in the field leading the industry towards a toxic-free future with credible timelines, concrete actions and on-the ground implementation.

 

Chemicals

 

●      The H&M group became part of the ChemSec business group in 2016 – a collaboration between companies to inspire the industry to use fewer toxic chemicals.

 

H&M in the news:

 

●      H&M Struggles Repairing a Battered Reputation in South Africa

 

 

Anuja Sawant

Environment & Sustainability, EPt

https://anujasawant.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anujasaw/

Twitter: @anujasaw

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/anujasblog

Anuja Sawant

Author Anuja Sawant

More posts by Anuja Sawant

Leave a Reply