H&M

Swedish fast fashion giant

Quick facts

rating
C

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country of origin

Sweden

mother company

H&M Group

certificates

How sustainable is H&M?

H&M is a popular, Swedish fast fashion brand by H&M Group, the famous Swedish fast fashion clothing company. The mother company publishes a single sustainability report for all nine of its brands. H&M is implementing practises to improve the sustainability of its company. It’s increasing wastewater and energy efficiency, a big percentage of energy used in stores is renewable, packaging is improving, and the group has committed to climate targets. Sustainable cotton is increasingly used and H&M has launched a separate brand to give unsold products a new life. That being said, H&M is one of the most polluting fashion companies in the world. With over 5,000 stores over the entire world and a revenue of over 25 billion USD, the company generated 17,662,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2019 alone. Climate action is necessary, and now includes a long term target to be climate positive by 2040, but this is not science based. While measures are being taken to achieve a smaller carbon footprint in H&M’s operations, it’s the fundament of its business model, fast fashion, that can never be sustainable. The company’s clothing is produced as a disposable product, which not only results in huge landfills of clothing and environmental harm, but also causes bad working conditions for workers in its supply chain. Because the collections and styles change so frequently, H&M clothing needs to be produced very rapidly for very low prices. This creates harmful working conditions in countries where people are forced to work for less than a living wage, maintaining the cycle of poverty. While this is definitely a broader problem, in H&M’s case there is no third-party auditing firm accredited to monitor its factories. This means that the reporting about worker conditions and the implementation of their Code of Conduct is conducted by H&M itself. This lack of transparency also translates into other elements of the business. The company doesn’t provide sufficient information about material origins and animal welfare. All in all, H&M is an enormous company. Although it’s definitely stepping up its game and changing for the better, it also stays true to fast fashion trends for almost all of its brands. This is simply not sustainable and poses risks for the environment, people and animals.

Publication date: March 22nd 2020
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