How H&M Will Become A Tastemaker For Sustainable Fashion

In April, H&M hosted a sustainability event at their London showroom. At the reception, they shared the company’s latest sustainability report and the major findings from their sustainability work in 2015.  H&M is developing a new sustainability strategy with a focus on the circular economy. For the sustainability event, H&M brought together leading innovators and experts with differing perspectives on circularity. Their goal was “to help to set the benchmark not only for the brand, but for the entire fashion industry and beyond.” The following is an excerpt of the interview with Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability at H&M, for Forbes:  Kate L. Harrison: What inspired H&M to take this step? Anna Gedda: Our customers are showing growing interest in the issues around sustainability. Therefore, we see this new focus as investing in and further strengthening our customer offerings. Investing in sustainability means investing in H&M’s future as a brand. Harrison: How does the sustainability report fit into your commitment to transparency? Gedda: We believe transparency is a key catalyst of positive change. At H&M, we are committed to transparent reporting of our sustainability performance. We were one of the first fashion brands to publish our supplier list, and we constantly monitor where and under what conditions our products are being produced.  Our annual sustainability report is how we review our performance against key goals, set new goals, and lay out both the challenges we’re facing and possible solutions we are working on. It’s a good way for H&M to update our customers and other stakeholders, but we also consider the report to be an important internal management tool. We are committed to seeing transparency and sustainability continue to evolve. Harrison: Your event was pitched as industry-focused. How do other companies fit into your vision going forward? Gedda: It’s asking a bit too much from consumers to read through hundreds of pages of sustainability reports before they buy a new t-shirt. So for consumers, it’s still hard to compare and benchmark products for sustainability. That’s why we would like to see consumer labeling that communicates directly with customers trying to make informed sustainability choices. Such labeling would make it much easier to compare products on their sustainability performance across a wide array of different brands. This work is being done in collaboration within the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, SAC. Harrison: How does “closing the loop” fit into your goals? Gedda: We need to find a solution to the clothing industry’s current dependence on extracting new virgin resources. By investing in innovation and techniques that can make it practical to reuse textile fibers when producing new garments on a large scale, we would reduce the need for virgin resources. This is what our goal of closing the loop is all about. We want clothes to have a longer life — either in their original forms, as second hand clothing, or in a completely new use — instead of just being thrown away, adding to the amount of unnecessary waste in landfills. Harrison: Where does technology fit into the picture? Gedda: We have set our vision on becoming 100% circular, including using only recycled or sustainably-sourced materials. What we mean by a circular approach is focusing in on how products are made and used and potentially reused; technology and innovation will be the key to a genuine transformation. Harrison: How do consumers respond to your sustainability efforts? Is it “worth it” for the company to go in this direction? Gedda: We see great interest from our customers in being environmentally conscious and we’re happy about that. For us, it makes good business sense to invest in social as well as environmental sustainability. Our aim is to offer more sustainable options for today´s increasingly aware customers. Harrison: H&M has been working on sustainability issues internally for several years. Why are you reaching beyond your own organization at this point to include other retailers? Gedda: We want to be a change-maker in leading sustainable fashion. It’s a serious goal for H&M to expand our sustainability work to the next level. We are currently setting new goals across various key sustainability topics, such as circularity, climate, transparency, equality, and fair jobs all along our production chain. To define these goals, we are working with experts to challenge ourselves following a science-based approach in defining change targets and finding best actions. We hope our success will influence the broader garment industry and set a new baseline for sustainable fashion. Source of Article: forbes.com

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