H&M World’s Largest User of Organic Cotton

H&M have confused me somewhat of late. They are a mass market, worldwide clothing brand where you can buy a vest top for £3.99, so technically I shouldn’t like them. But they have worked hard on developing their Conscious Collection and increased their use of sustainable materials. They are also the biggest user of organic cotton for the second consecutive year (2011), according to Textile Exchange´s latest Global Sustainable Textiles Market Report. H&M continued to increase its already world leading use of organic cotton further which is part of H&M´s strategic goal to only use more sustainable cotton by 2020.

“We congratulate H&M for again leading the list of the biggest users of certified organic cotton in the world. H&M’s ambitious program continues to drive demand for organic cotton and other more sustainable fibres. This supports farmers, encourages innovation and with its fashion forward Conscious Collections, H&M lifts more sustainable fashion to scale. This strategic work serves as a model for adopting and expanding the use of greener materials in the fashion industry.” states LaRhea Pepper, Managing Director of Textile Exchange.

The continued increase of organic cotton use is part of H&M´s performance against the ambitious goal to only use more sustainable cotton by 2020. H&M has been using certified organic cotton since 2004. All organic cotton used for H&M is independently certified and clothes are clearly labelled with a dedicated hangtag allowing consumers an informed choice.

Besides further increasing the use of certified organic cotton, H&M is also boosting the use of so called Better Cotton. As an active member of the Better Cotton Initiative (www.bettercotton.org), H&M has invested more than EUR 2 million in total until 2013 in helping hundreds of thousands of cotton farmers to grow more cotton with less water and less chemicals through trainings conducted by Better Cotton Initiatives partner organisations such as WWF and Solidaridad.

As the mass market of the high street by far represents the majority of most of our wardrobes, it can only be a positive that brands like H&M are making significant changes to their supply chains.

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H&M Ban Harmful Perflourinated Compounds (PFCs)

H&M have announced that from the 1st of January 2013 they will ban Perfluorinated Compounds from any products that they sell (PFCs).

PFCs are used to achieve the water repellent finish mainly found on outer wear garments, but also on shower curtains, tents, etc. PFCs are harmful for the environment, for reproduction and for aquatic organisms. Worryingly:

‘PFCs can be detected almost ubiquitously, e.g., in water, plants, different kinds of foodstuffs, in animals such as fish, birds, in mammals, as well as in human breast milk and blood. PFCs are proposed as a new class of ‘persistent organic pollutants’. Numerous publications allude to the negative effects of PFCs on human health’ (Stahl, T. 2011).

It is all too easy to forget that the textile industry is a major environmental polluter globally. For example during the dyeing process an average t-shirt will use 16-20 litres of water and whilst 80% of the dye is retained by the fabric, the rest is washed out.

H&M teamed up with other fashion and sport brands in 2011 to help lead the industry to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals. As a brand, they have since worked on restricting and phasing out perfluorinated substances. H&M is also a part of AFIRM, an international working team of leading companies within the textile and footwear industries, educating the suppliers to achieve good chemical management. The group’s common aim is to reduce the use and impact of harmful substances in the apparel and footwear supply chain.

Read their most recent sustainability report at: www.hm.com/consciousactions2011

Scientists amongst you might want to read this article from the Environmental Sciences Europe Open Access journal. Stahl, T. et al. ‘Toxicology of Perfluorinated Compounds’, 2011, 23:38

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H+M Conscious Collection

Last week the High Street fashion chain H+M launched an ethics led collection called ‘Conscious’. The range is available for women, men and kids and uses organic cotton, recycled polyester and Tencel. I’m always a bit sceptical about large giants claiming to be ethical, there’s always the chance that they are using a small ethical range to move the sustainability limelight off their main collections. UK managing director Magnus Olsson said the retailer had made the commitment as customers were becoming increasingly interested in ethical sourcing. You could say if they really do care, why not use organic cotton and recycled materials across the whole collection? The answer is that there is simply not enough organic cotton available yet, which would make sourcing for a fast fashion retailer extremely difficult.

I am well aware that many people think ethical fashion is too expensive, well the Conscious collection does not fit into this generalisation. An organic women’s top is priced £7.99. H+M say they kept prices low by pre-booking large quantities of cotton. The result is an affordable, accessible and fashionable collection which I think is a great accomplishment for the retailer. If it is manufactured ethically as well, as they say it is, they make the whole process look rather easy! They also announced today that they have pledged to source all their cotton from sustainable sources by 2020.
Have a look at this video.

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