Fashion, Ethics and Sustainability

H&M is a popular high-street store which provides consumers with fashionable garments at affordable prices. Within this particular blog post, I will be looking into the sustainability of H&M and their ethical practices.

“At H&M, we offer fashion at great value – but not at any price. We want to make conscious choices easy and accessible for everyone. That’s why we keep working hard every day to make our products and the entire fashion industry more sustainable – from the cotton eld to giving clothes that you no longer want or need a new life.”

H&M – Sustainability Report 2014 – 2014 http://sustainability.hm.com/content/dam/hm/about/documents/en/CSR/reports/Conscious%20Actions%20Highlights%202014_en.pdf

Therefore, H&M have set themselves seven commitments as a mission to help make their products more sustainable, both economically and environmentally. They include…

                                                                                                                                                        “OUR SEVEN COMMITMENTS;

1. Provide fashion for conscious customers                                                                2. Choose and reward responsible partners                                                                  3. Be ethical
4. Be climate smart
5. Reduce, reuse, recycle
6. Use natural resources responsibly
7. Strengthen communities.”

H&M – Sustainability Report 2014 – 2014.

http://sustainability.hm.com/content/dam/hm/about/documents/en/CSR/reports/Conscious%20Actions%20Highlights%202014_en.pdf

When considering commitment 2, H&M also have very high standards in relation to the working conditions of their suppliers. With their products being made in various different countries; such as India and Bangladesh, there is an increased risk of the workers’ human rights being violated. Therefore H&M put in place several measures in order to ensure they monitor this. These measures include conducting thousands of unannounced factory audits each year and educating the workers themselves about their own rights.[1]  It’s also known that H&M work with their suppliers in order to agree on pay structures which enable the workers to earn a decent living wage, and get paid fairly for any overtime, all which must be within legal limits. However, when looking at the wages of workers in Bangladesh, the pay they receive is still less than the wage which the trade union supported that workers must be paid.[2]

Commitment 5 can clearly be seen in most stores of H&M through the use of the recycling boxes which are used to collect unwanted clothes. The clothes are then sorted and either recycled or reused. Most of the unwanted garments are used to produce recycled Cotton by grinding them into fibres, spinning them into new yarns and then weaving them into new fabrics to produce brand new products. In 2014, the first products were made using recycled Cotton, but only 20% of the entire fibre content was recycled Cotton. They achieved this by collecting over 7,600 tonnes of unwanted clothes; that is equivalent to the same amount of fabric used in more than 38 million t-shirts.[3]

In relation to commitment 6, H&M introduced their ‘Conscious’ collection; a clothing range specifically for sustainable fashion and since this they have became very well known for their increasing use of organic Cotton, due to their aim that 100% of the Cotton used in their Conscious collection will be from more sustainably sourced by 2020.[4] It takes a huge amount of water to grow cotton; approximately 8,500 litres for a single pair of jeans, and many pesticides are often used in order to improve their harvest. By sourcing their Cotton sustainably it means that H&M have to pay more for it, but it has a more positive impact on the environment as no chemical pesticides or fertilisers are used. This means they cannot enter into the waterways and pollute them, therefore helping to conserve waterways and allow people to have access to safe drinking water. Since the launch of the ‘Conscious’ collection and working towards increasing their use of organic Cotton, has led to them becoming one of the leading users of organic Cotton in the world.

Bibliography;

[1] – H&M (2015) Working Conditions. Available at: http://about.hm.com/en/About/sustainability/commitments/responsible-partners/working-conditions.html (Accessed: 16 November 2015).

[2] – Fashion United (2014) H&M’s struggle for ethical and sustainable fashion. Available at: https://fashionunited.uk/v1/fashion/hams-struggle-for-ethical-and-sustainable-fashion/2014041413340 (Accessed: 16 November 2015).

[3] – Persson, K.-J., Ceo, K.-J. and Persson (2015) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Available at: http://sustainability.hm.com/content/dam/hm/about/documents/en/CSR/reports/Conscious%20Actions%20Highlights%202014_en.pdf (Accessed: 16 November 2015).

[4] – H&M (2015) Cotton. Available at: http://about.hm.com/en/About/sustainability/commitments/conscious-fashion/more-sustainable-materials/cotton.html (Accessed: 16 November 2015).

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Fashion, Ethics and Sustainability

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