How sustainable is H&M and its “Conscious” collection? A deep dive into the fast fashion giant's sustainability practices
Like many other big fashion brands, H&M is now liberally integrating the words "sustainability", "recycling" and "circular economy".do not give themand marketing communications.
As a customer, you might think: “Great! My favorite fast fashion brand finally got the message that climate change exists, so now I don't have to worry about it and can continue shopping without changing my habits or having to switch to a new brand.”
Sounds good, right? maybe even a littlealsoborn?
How sustainable can a company really be when it sells?“Sustainable” T-shirts for less than €5 each, while bringing you new articles every week? In other words, H&M is sustainable,In fact?
We asked ourselves this question and decided to get to the bottom of it.
Keep reading what we found! 🚀
H&M's "Conscious" Collection
If you've ever shopped at H&M, either in-store or online, you may have noticed that some clothes have the "Mindful" label. Conscious means being "aware of and responding to our environment" and is the name of H&M's sustainable collection.
This collection wasreleased in 2010and has attracted many customers ever since.
Look forof the Stern Center for Sustainable Business at New York University found that products labeled "sustainable" sell much faster than regular products. After all, who wouldn't feel good about buying a sustainable t-shirt instead of the regular H&M t-shirt?
But the collection has also rightly caused quite a stir as, despite being 11 years old,it is still not as sustainable as it claims to be.
H&M itselfStatesthe following about the items in your Conscious Collection:
“They are made with at least 50% sustainably sourced materials, like organic cotton and recycled polyester, but many Conscious products contain much more than that. The only exception is recycled cotton, which can only make up 20% of a product. If we included more recycled cotton, the clothes just wouldn't be of the same quality.”
Well, that sounds a bit vague, but so far it seems reasonable.
However, wait until we see the next example.
What you see below is the cheapest Conscious garment from the German online store of H&M. For only €3.99 (!) you can buy this top:
In the product description we can see that the top is made of 95% cotton and 5% elastane. Wait a second, how is that sustainable?
If you keep reading until you get to the fine print (and who does?), you'll learn thatouter layer of the upper contains 25% recycled cotton.
This means that only a specific part of the upper, that is, the outer layer, contains a quarter of recycled cotton. With that, we can only guess how much recycled material is actually being used on top! 🎉🙄 (Of course, we are being ironic, because the answer is: probably very little).
The whole situation reminds us of H&M'ssustainability report 2020. There, the company states in its "Sustainability Highlights" that 64.5% of its materials come from recycled or more sustainable sources. But whatthey are"more sustainable sources"? There is no explanation for this.
The 2018 sustainability report sheds a little more light on this. He claims that of all the materials H&M uses only0.7% is recycled.
With hidden facts like these only allowing us to make assumptions about H&M's not-so-sustainable collection, many critics were and still are outraged, which also led to legal consequences.
May 2019, pThe Norwegian consumer authority ridiculed H&Mand called the company's behavior "misleading" to consumers. It is alleged that H&M does not provide adequate details as to why its clothing is less polluting than other garments. As a result, consumers would not be able to clearly determine whether H&M is truly sustainable or just greenwashing.
Acting in fast fashion
Apart from the general problems with the H&M sustainability collection and the fact that H&M presents itself as more sustainable than it really is, there is also one important point that can be criticized:Your entire business model.
H&M is the second largest fashion retailer in the world after Inditex and definitely makes a great contribution to the fast fashion market with its more than5,000 storesworld.
And by the way: the H&M recipe is a1.4% market share(Worldwide)! That's a lot of market power and impact!
We all probably know that producing clothes to wear several times and then throw them away cannot be particularly sustainable. But let's take a look at some more numbers to get an idea of how much Fast Fashion is.actuallyguilty when it comes to climate change.
First, let's take a quick look at a definition so we're all on the same page. EITHERqueensland universitydescribes fast fashion as "clothing produced at a cheap price that copies the latest runway styles and is quickly pumped through stores to maximize current trends."
Fast fashion manufacturers have done very well with this tactic in recent years: from 2010 to 2015, the market grew.by almost 10% a year.
But what is the impact of this growth and the fashion industry in general?
Well, a big good bad, if theUnited Nations Environment Programis anything to get by.
This program found that the fashion industry is the second largest consumer of water in the world and was responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions in 2019 (the equivalent of1.2 billion tons).
How investing in water can help save the global water crisis
NoA report,fashion is therefore described as including "practices destructive to the environment and society"; it's pretty obvious that this is mostly about fast fashion.
These facts make it abundantly clear that we have a huge problem with the status quo in our fashion industry. This is partly due to companies, but also due to our own “buy it and throw it away” behavior as consumers.
But let's take a look now at H&M. How does this company operate in the fast fashion space?
Basically, one can say: H&M is not an innocent lamb.
Like many others in the fast fashion industry, H&M has gone from producing two collections a year (winter and summer collections) to launching new items.weekly.(Zara, H&M's fast-fashion rival, has about20 collections per year, for example, too. That's how fashion works now.)
The consequence of these weekly novelties and collections is that H&M sells the "oldies", that is, items that came out perhaps a month ago, with deep discounts or that are stagnant in products.
What does the fashion giant do with these things in perfect condition? burn them. 🔥
Yes, you read that right.
Already in 2017,Green Peacefind somethingH&M was burning like-new items.
Let this go through your head for a moment:
So H&M makes tons and tons of clothes, just nobody buys them and burns them? And for that they waste water, plastic and chemicals? And we are not talking about one or two elements that are somehow left behind, no. we are talking about12 tons(!) of clothes per year.
Sadly, the same is true of the clothing collection initiative that H&M launched a few years ago. What's that?
At first glance, it seems like a really good idea: customers can bring their used clothes to any H&M store, and H&M will take care of the recycling.
So we can conclude that, even if H&M tries to make it look like it, there is simply no way to unite fast fashion and sustainability.
H&M Sustainability Commitments
So if you look at sustainability at H&M, you'll quickly realize that there's a lot going wrong. However, we don't just want to highlight one side, but also say some positive things about the fashion giant.
In 2017, for example, the company set some very ambitious sustainability goals: they want to usefairrecycled and sustainably produced materials2030 and aim to be climate positive across the entire value chain by 2040.
furthermore, theH&M Foundation- a foundation in which H&M's founding Persson family invested $180 million of their own wealth to do good - is currently investing$100 millionin the so-called "Green Machine". This is a machine that, using the latest technologies, should be able to split even difficult-to-recycle garments (consisting of many different interwoven threads, for example) into their individual parts and thus make them reusable.
Although the machine is not yet perfect (and only exists, in fact), it must be said that this is a great initiative from H&M.
“They're made from at least 50% sustainably sourced materials – like organic cotton and recycled polyester — but many Conscious products contain a lot more than that. The only exception is recycled cotton which can only make up 20% of a product.Is H&M Conscious Collection actually sustainable? ›
Many of the clothes from the Conscious Collection line are made from polyester, a synthetic material that is not biodegradable or recyclable. Polyester is also known to shed harmful microfibers. Learn more about how to spot greenwashing in this My Green Closet video.What is wrong with H&M Conscious Collection? ›
Moreover, the report identified H&M as the worst offender when it comes to false green claims with 96% false claims. H&M reported that 90% of its recycled polyester comes from single-use plastic bottles. Except, this is also a false solution created by big brands to lure you into believing they are ethical.What sustainable practices does H&M have in place? ›
H&M set a goal to have 100% of their garments made from recycled components by 2030, and they claim that, as of recently, that figure was already at 65%. Having a goal of 2030 may seem like a good thing, however, there are many brands already using 100% sustainable fabric in 2022.What does Conscious mean on H&M? ›
We also have Conscious choice: pieces created with a little extra consideration for the planet. Each Conscious choice product contains at least 50% of more sustainable materials — like organic cotton or recycled polyester — but many contain a lot more than that.Is H & Ma sustainable brand? ›
While H&M does make good promises and sustainability commitments for the future which include using recycled and sustainability-produced materials only by year 2030, the fast fashion business model per se isn't sustainable in itself as it supports the “buy-and-throwaway” consumer mentality and still produces waste.Is H and M greenwashing? ›
As mentioned above, a Quartz investigation revealed that H&M's self-reported Higg Index scores were often inaccurate or inflated, and the company was not fully transparent about its environmental impact. It even sometimes reported the opposite of what the Higg Index indicated. Source: Quartz report.What is H&M biggest weakness? ›
Overdependence on Outsourcing:
Instead of manufacturing in-house, H&M outsources most of its production to over 900 independent suppliers in Europe and Asia. While this strategy has contributed to its success, it puts the company at the mercy of the suppliers.
Outsourcing: H&M is immensely dependent on outsourcing. Hence, this is one of its primary drawbacks. Instead of producing their goods in-house, they have more than 900 suppliers in Asia and Europe. They are responsible for manufacturing their products.Why is H&M not as popular? ›
“With slower supply chain (unlike super-fast Zara), they have not responded as quickly to rapid shifts in taste and increasing fragmentation in the consumer market with many more small segments. As a result, they have had more markdowns, promotions and less inspiration for the consumer.
Gap is an omnichannel retailer of clothing, accessories, and personal care products for men, women, and children. Fast Retailing is a retail holding company. Uniqlo is a casual wear designer, manufacturer and retailer. Inditex is a company operating as a clothing and fashion retailer.Where does H and M get their clothes? ›
China: main clothing supplier
As seen in the present graph, China, Bangladesh and Turkey are top three locations where H&M sources its products. This is also true for. In Sweden, where the retailer is headquartered, there are a total of 21 suppliers and factories manufacturing H&M's clothing products and accessories.
The H&M business concept is to offer fashion and quality at the best prices with sustainability as an added value. We achieve this by buying directly from manufacturers and by having efficient logistics and our own warehouses, not by compromising on our sustainability requirements.What are the 7 values of H&M? ›
- Integrity. Be honest and keep our promises, living our values through action.
- Strong Work Ethic. ...
- Compassion, Commitment and Respect. ...
- Responsibility and Accountability. ...
- Continuous Personal and Team Improvement. ...
- Stewardship. ...
Reuse – garments that can be worn again will be sold as second-hand clothes. Repurpose – old clothes and textiles that cannot be resold will be turned into other products, such as cleaning cloths. Recycle – all other items are shredded into textile fibres and used to make, for example, insulation materials.What is H&M Code of Ethics? ›
The Code of Ethics states a zero tolerance policy on corruption and demands compliance with all relevant laws and our own business principles.What is the slogan for H&M sustainability? ›
TOGETHEr WE STrIVE FOr SUSTAINABILITY H&M takes pride in running all its business opera- tions in a way that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.Who sued H&M for greenwashing? ›
Large corporations such as H&M have enormous marketing prowess and far-reaching messaging, which the plaintiffs, Abraham Lizama and Marc Doten, claim are "unlawful, unfair, deceptive, and misleading business practices."Are Zara and H&M owned by the same company? ›
The owners of Zara (Inditex) and H&M (H&M Group) are the world's two biggest players in fashion retail, and as such are under intense scrutiny as the market undergoes changes accelerated by the health crisis.What is H&M being sued for? ›
H&M, a global fashion company, originally from Sweden, are currently in the process of being sued for Greenwashing. A company who markets themselves as trying to help the environment and create clothing that is sustainable, when in fact they are doing the opposite.
H&M. The fast-fashion brand, H&M, faced accusations of greenwashing after a 2022 investigation from the news publication Quartz claimed the brand misled consumers with its environmental scorecards.Does H&M use harmful chemicals? ›
When washing, dyeing and printing our clothes, our suppliers must meet our chemical requirements. These are often stricter than the regulations set by the industry, and our bottom line is that hazardous chemicals shouldn't be used by us or found in any of our products.Why is H&M struggling? ›
Budget player H&M's profits fell last year as it did not fully pass on soaring raw material, freight and energy costs in an attempt to retain its price-sensitive customers.What challenges is H&M facing? ›
Challenges − Despite its success, H&M has faced challenges, such as increased competition from fast-fashion and online-only retailers, changing consumer preferences, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.What is the key success factor of H&M? ›
The secret to the success of H&M and its rivals like Zara and Forever 21 can be attributed to the fast fashion business model. Fast fashion relies on moving a large volume of merchandise from the designer table to the showroom floor in the shortest amount of time possible and at a reasonable price.What makes H&M different from other brands? ›
The H&M group has a circular approach which is reflected in the increased use of recycled and sustainable materials. Aiming for a relevant and well-curated offering at all times, the brands work constantly to make their product ranges even better.Does H&M exploit child labor? ›
Swedish fashion chain H&M worked with clothing factories in Myanmar where children as young as 14 toiled for more than 12 hours a day, according to a book being published in Sweden next week.What does H&M need to improve? ›
To boost its sales, H&M must focus on improving its fashion credentials and placing less focus on basics in its eponymous brand. It should also promote the low prices of its products throughout 2022 as consumers place more importance on value for money.What is H&M best known for? ›
H&M's business concept is to offer fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way. The company engages in the design, development, distribution, marketing and sale of clothing, accessories, footwear, beauty products, home interior and more.Why is Justin Bieber against H&M? ›
Justin Bieber didn't want fans to buy H&M's 'trash' merch, so the retailer scrapped it. Justin Bieber says he didn't approve a new collection that was being sold by fast-fashion giant H&M.
The materials that go into the garments also aren't high quality. Being fast fashion, the garments are made as quick as possible so they can be sold while the trend is still relevant. While not all garments are low quality, a lot of the cheaper prices come from lower grade materials and less care in how they're made.What groups does H&M target? ›
H&M Group has special guidelines for the advertising of our children's concepts. The target audience is always caregivers and grownups, not children, and we do not place advertisements in media aimed directly at children. Children who take part in our campaigns must do so of their own free will.What country is H&M most popular in? ›
Through multiple brands and concepts H&M offers a broad and varied range of inspiring fashion that lets customers explore and develop their own personal style. Germany is H&M's largest market. In 2021, 28 billion Swedish kronor were generated from that country alone.What is the high end brand of H&M? ›
COS first opened on Regent Street, London in 2007, followed by the launch of the online store in 2011. The brand is available across Europe, Asia, North America, the Middle East and Australia, and offers reinvented classics and wardrobe essentials for women, men and children.Why did H&M cancel Conscious choice? ›
Lead plaintiff Chelsea Commodore argued that H&M's “misrepresentations” included characterizing its products are “conscious,” a “conscious choice,” made from “sustainable materials” and prevented, through its recycling program, “from going to the landfill.” The last point, she said, was especially misleading because ...Did H&M launch its own line of green clothing titled Conscious? ›
In 2019, H&M launched its own line of “green” clothing titled “Conscious.” The company claims to use “organic” cotton and recycled polyester. However, at quick glance, the line is nothing but a shelled marketing tactic used to make themselves appear more environmentally friendly.Which fast fashion brand is the most sustainable? ›
First on our list of the most sustainable fashion brands is Wholesome Culture, who is on a mission to make the world a kinder and more sustainable place with their eco-friendly apparel. Their designs are printed with eco-friendly water-based ink, made from 100% organic cotton, recycled plastic bottles and bamboo.What brands are truly sustainable? ›
- Alternative Apparel. For your everyday basics, turn to Alternative Apparel. ...
- Amour Vert. ...
- Conscious Collection by H&M. ...
- Threads 4 Thought. ...
- People Tree. ...
- Krotchet Kids International. ...
- Pact. ...
Thrifting is not only a more sustainable option, but it's also a creative way to breathe new life into pre-loved clothing. By giving new life to existing clothing, we can reduce the amount of waste going into landfills and save our environment.Are high end brands more sustainable? ›
Luxury products are set up for sustainability
51.7% of fashion waste ends up in landfills. Luxury products are fundamentally durable. With a focus on high-quality materials, luxury products are set up to last longer than the average product, requiring less need for incineration and textile waste.