H&M Adds Up Major Sustainability Initiatives Launched In 2013

(3BL/JustMeans) - H&M launched several major sustainability initiatives last year, including its first closed loop collection made with 20 percent recycled materials from collected garments. Almost all of its stores worldwide participate in its garment collection initiative, first launched in 2012. Last year, the company collected 3,047 tons of unwanted garments. H&M also launched its roadmap for fair living wages. Based on the Fair Wage Network’s methodology, the goal for the roadmap is for all of its strategic suppliers to have improved pay structures to put fair living wages in place by 2018 which will affect around 850,000 workers. To accomplish this, H&M must ensure that its purchasing practices support its suppliers in implementing fair living wages, and is working with its suppliers to that end. 

H&M’s 12th sustainability report details all that the clothing company is doing to become an industry leader. The company doubled its share of sustainable cotton in the last two years to 15.8 percent with 10.8 percent being certified organic, Better Cotton certified 5.0 percent, and recycled 0.01 percent. The goal is for all of its cotton to come from organic cotton, recycled cotton, and Better Cotton certified sources. H&M is already one of the world’s biggest users of certified organic cotton. Sustainable fabrics make up 11 percent of the fabrics used in H&M’s products, an increase from 9.1 in 2012. H&M plans to increase the share of sustainable fabrics every year. 
H&M is concerned about the chemicals used in the tanning process of leather and solvent based glues used to make its shoes. In 2013, 49 percent of all the leather used in its shoes came from either certified organic or Leather Working Group sources, which requires companies to adhere to environmental standards in order to be certified. The goal is to increase the share of sustainable fabrics every year. The company is working on reducing the use of solvent based glues in its shoes because they can be harmful to workers. In 2012, H&M produced seven million pairs of shoes with safer water based alternatives. A year later, the company decided to set a goal of phasing out solvent based glues by 2020. It has already achieved a 21 percent rate for all of its shoes.
H&M has a goal of reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2015. Since electricity use in its stores represents over 70 percent of its GHG emissions, it wants to use only renewable energy sources. In the UK and the Netherlands, H&M has already achieved 100 percent renewables use. In 2013, 18 percent of its electricity used worldwide came from renewable sources. The clothing retailer is also focusing on reducing energy use, with a goal of  reducing energy use per square meter by 20 percent by 2020. It achieved a 14 percent reduction in 2013, and that same year, the company installed over 65 percent of its stores with electricity meters. 
H&M wants to make its supply chain more sustainable. For that reason, it signed a pledge in 2011 to not knowingly buy cotton from Uzbekistan because forced child labor is common in Uzbeki cotton fields. In 2013, H&M required all of its suppliers to sign a commitment to not knowingly source any cotton from Uzbekistan. In 2009, the company introduced requirements not to source from any factories located in buildings shared by several companies so the factory can maintain safety control. Two years later, it introduced a training program to increase fire safety awareness among its suppliers and their employees through the use of short films. Through the program, over 300,000 workers and middle managers in Bangladesh have been trained. H&M was the first company to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh in spring 2013; by the end of the year, over 100 brands signed. The Accord is a legally binding agreement created as a result of a factory building collapse in Bangladesh in April 2013 which killed over a 1,000 workers.
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