Is H&M Really a Sustainable Retailer?

30 September 2020

When I think about conscious retailers, I’ve always highly regarded H&M.

Maybe it’s the fact you are encouraged to drop off your unwanted clothes in store or the fact they have a range entitled ‘conscious’. As the second largest retailer in the world, the ways in which they are promoting sustainability in fashion was plastered everywhere in store and via e-marketing. H&M were also named as one of the most ethical companies in the world by the Ethisphere Institute. So of course, I had to read about some of the H&M sustainability policies.

As I say whenever I write a piece about sustainable fashion, I am no green goddess, I'm simply on a journey to think about the power of my pound. I'm thinking more about where my money goes and making choices that positively impact people.

H&M are pledging to be 100% climate positive by 2020 by using renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency, using 100% recycled or sustainable materials. They received a score of ‘A+’ for their transparency and ability to trace most of its suppliers, banning the use of fur, angora and exotic animal and skins, and an entire ‘Conscious’ collection dedicated to sustainable clothes. All good right?

In my mind, H&M was one of the good retailers that were doing their bit to make the planet greener and fairer whilst providing some beautiful pieces at the same time (because let’s be honest, H&M has been killing it with the summer pieces this year). Whoever has the job title ‘design amazing clothes so Maya spends all her money at H&M’ has succeeded. They have so much amazing stuff at the moment - I want it all.

As part of my last blog post ‘THE ETHICAL FASHION DAIRIES: WHY YOU SHOULD RENT YOUR NEXT OUTFIT’, I mentioned that I was going to delve deep into whether fashion brands that display themselves as sustainable, really are. I for one am no sustainability goddess, I’m still on my journey of trying to buy less from fashion brands, shop second hand, trying to up-cycle my clothes and a lot of brands are on this same journey.

The one thing that always made me think H&M was on the right ethical track was their garment recycling service - which i LOVE to use. It works by giving your unwanted clothes (any brand, any condition) to someone at the store, and you get a voucher for £5 off your next H&M purchase over £25. I get the massive incentive, and like i said H&M are killing it right now, and I think it was intended to discourage the constant rotations of clothes. They’ve been offering this since 2013, so long before lots of high street brands started to jump on the sustainability train. But I’ve always wondered is it fully about stopping clothes from going to landfill (as clothes are either reused, rework or recycled) or is it just an opportunity to get money off your next purchase, so encouraging you to shop at h&M.

H&M have been accused of Greenwashing. Which if you don’t know what Greenwashing is (because I certainly didn’t before this post). It’s when a brand (usually a fast fashion brand) distances itself from fast fashion, to make people believe that the company is doing more to protect the environment and better society. However, in reality due to nature of the unsustainable impact regurgitating products on a weekly basis is having on the earth. Greenwashing is all about having a strong marketing campaign and using this to make us (well me, the loyal H&M consumer) think H&M is doing the most when it comes to sustainability.

I think ti’s quite refreshing to see such a big brand consider sustainability as integrally as H&M do, and in the hope that is not performative, as the second biggest producer of fashion products, it is setting a great example to other fast fashion brands. H&M has some BIG goals with its sustainability targets and it’s exciting to see how a company will change themselves from being a large part of the fast fashion industry to a trailblazer in setting and achieving those targets.


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