Why We all Need to Shop at H&M

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Why We all Need to Shop at H&M

The fashion industry has long been criticised for its lack of sustainability efforts. Corporate Citizenship's researcher, Hugh Macpherson looks at how one key player opened its doors to scrutiny and became a market leader.
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The fashion industry has long been criticised for its lack of #cr effort, why should we shop at h&m? http://ow.ly/kOT9r
Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 10:00am


H&M has done a very brave thing in my opinion.

The Swedish based apparel company has come under fire in recent years as a result of some of their practices. In 2011 they were accused of failing to ensure decent working conditions in their supply chain in Cambodia.  In the same year, Greenpeace accused them, along with a suite of competitors, of releasing toxic pollution into water sources in China. The previous year it was reported that they had mislabelled many products, stating they were made with 100% organic cotton when actually they included GM cotton.

The concentration of these attacks is a clear indication of how prominent the issue of ethical fashion has become. This has meant companies are often reluctant to disclose information about their sourcing and production practices.  It is rare to find a company that produces clothes for high street sale and is also willing to publically communicate on some of the most controversial issues facing the industry.

But up steps H&M. In 2012 they released a CSR report that did exactly that, publishing numbers on indicators like:

  • Percentage of organic cotton bought
  • Volume of water use in the production line
  • Greenhouse Gas emissions

This in itself was a big step. It caused quite a stir in the CSR world. This fashion industry leader became open to allowing its performance on these issues to be scrutinised.

Now they’ve gone a step further. The current marketing campaign for H&M’s “Conscious” range is one that’s hard to miss. This collection provides garments manufactured using recycled materials and organic cotton, which gives customers the chance to use their purchasing power to influence the sustainability strategy of a company. The range itself is not a new one but the extent of the investment in its marketing is.

So we all need to buy these clothes. I have tried to explain how we as consumers of fashion can have a direct impact on its management in the infographic below.

However, I must say that H&M is not the first-mover on this issue. The real innovation comes right from the other end of the scale. Small independent companies like rêve en vert have been addressing the issue for some time now, providing their customers with a guarantee that ethical sourcing is a business priority for them, not just a novelty.

So in reality it’s not just H&M that deserves our custom. There are plenty of other companies out there who we can reward for sticking their necks out in this infamous sector. So we really should.