Apr 5, 2013
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H&M publishes 2012 Sustainability Report

Apr 5, 2013

The Swedish giant has released its 2012 report on sustainable development and "conscious actions." It is a chance for the retailer to remind the public a second year in a row that it is "the largest user of certified organic cotton in the world." According to H&M, organic and recycled cotton now represents 11.4% of the cotton used in its collections, a rate expected to rise to 100% by 2020. "H&M plays a leading role in showing other brands in the industry that it is possible to create fashion collections in a more environmentally responsible manner," said Hela Helmersson, head of sustainability at H&M in a press statement.

Ecological concerns play an important role in the brand's development strategy, especially since 2011 and the launch of Conscious, the environmental collection for H&M born out of the "Better Cotton Initiative." According to the retailers, the effort has helped educate 150,000 cotton farmers about sustainable farming. A major advertising campaign fronted by Vanessa Paradis and launched March 25 is now getting out the word about the Conscious collection.

In addition to the use of organic cotton, H&M promotes transparency by publishing its list of suppliers, covering around 95% of its total production volume. This initiative particularly recalls the numerous fires that have devastated several textile factories in Bangladesh. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, an advocacy association of textile workers, more than 700 Bengaladeshi textile workers have died since 2006.

Several NGOs, such as "Peuples Solidaires" or "Collectif éthique sur l'étiquette," French groups dedicated to ethical work conditions and transparent practices in the fashion industry, are demanding large apparel groups outsourcing in Bangladesh (such as H&M) to take responsibility. "More than 100,000 workers and middle managers in H&M supplier factories received additional training on fire safety," responds the Swedish multinational in its "Conscious Actions" 2012 report.

The report also finally touts its global initiative to collect recycled clothing. "H&M wants to reduce the amount of clothing ending up in landfills and give these clothes a second life. In the long term, H&M wants to leverage their value in producing new clothes and create a closed circuit for the textile sector," says the brand. It is an effort aimed at erasing any criticism H&M might incur for its waste management policies, being part of the "fast fashion” world. An article in the New York Times in January 2010 denounced the shredding of unsold clothes in an H&M store in Manhattan.

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