Now this is interesting. H&M has consistently shown itself to be the most sustainability-focused of the big-league retailers and now it’s gone a step further with a commitment to using 100% recycled or other sustainable materials by 2030 as part of its declared aim to be “climate positive” throughout its supply chain by 2040.
Impressed? You should be. It marks a turning point where sustainability is seen at the norm rather than a pesky issue that companies only have to pay lip service to or that is good to exploit in marketing. Like the animal testing issue in the cosmetics sector, it’s a ‘crossing the Rubicon’ moment that may still be some way away but that illustrates just how far we’ve come.
And don’t forget, it wasn’t that long ago that the fact of chains like H&M launching one small collection with a sustainability profile was a headline grabber. Now this company, which is securely in the mass-market and for which low prices are key, is going the whole hog. It means nobody can make the excuse about sustainability being too expensive or consumers not being interested. OK, I know that H&M’s huge size does give it massive clout when it comes to negotiating deals and means it can get attractive prices that smaller rivals can’t. But let’s not take its big moment away from it.
The latest commitment comes in its Sustainability Report 2016 which was published today. In it the company also committed to switching to 100% renewable electricity, although that’s not such a tough call as it’s already at 96%.
It has a much bigger gap to make up on the sustainable materials front though. It currently uses 26% recycled or sustainably sourced materials. First it needs to get access to sustainable materials in bulk. Since it began its garment collecting initiative in 2013, H&M has collected 39,000 tonnes of unwanted textiles. By 2020 it aims to collect at least 25,000 tonnes of textiles every year and that figure needs to grow after that to support its aim using only recycled or sustainably sourced materials in its products by 2030.
H&M is already globally the biggest user of cotton certified by the Better Cotton Initiative and of responsibly-sourced down. It’s also one of the biggest users of organic cotton, recycled polyester and Tencel Lyocell. Again, it still has a gap to fill with its current use of sustainable cotton being at 43% and an aim of making that 100% in just three years’ time.