H&M Changing the Gameplay of Ethical Fashion

'Toxic Glamour' Fashion Shoot

Water Stewardship. Perhaps you have heard of the term amongst other eco jargon. The green movement in fashion is moving beyond organic cotton and taking the next steps in developing solutions to a serious problem called water pollution. Clean water, one of our scarcest resources is currently being overused and abused, poisoned by toxic contaminants and taken for granted. The fashion industry is one of the largest consumers of this precious resource. The way the cloth is processed and dyed contributes to the contamination of our water systems. Not to mention, doing laundry adds to the dirty water running through our pipes. The game of fashion is now adding a new player to the eco-movement, a green behemoth also known as H&M. As the second largest clothing retailer in the world, they continue to be one step ahead of the game in fashion.

The Offense

In hopes of becoming a leader in water stewardship, H&M continues to pave the way in ethical fashion on a global scale. Extensive plans, impressive policies, and commitments for a cleaner future are currently in effect. In an effort to preserve water, H&M has recently formed a partnership with World Wildlife Fund, the globe’s leading conservation organization. Malin Bjorne, a press contact working in the sustainability area at H&M says, “Reducing negative water impacts is not something a single company or organization can do, but with a collective approach we can achieve a lot more.” For a number of years, they have been closely looking at the way they use H20 at every stage of production, including in their offices. By utilizing World Wildlife Fund’s Water Stewardship and Water Risk Filter tools, they have formed a new holistic water strategy.

Not only will they be changing the way they use H2O, but they are also passionate about raising awareness in water stewardship in the fashion industry. For the next three years, they will publicly report their progress every third month in an effort to remain accountable and transparent to the public.

The Defense

When consumers think of H&M, what comes to mind? Fast-fashion, inexpensive toxic chemicals/dyes, overseas low – wage scandals, organic cotton fraud, and being wasteful. A third of H&M’s factories are located in China and Bangladesh, and the use of wet processes is located in extreme water scarce areas there. As a result their water strategy plan is focused in river basins in these two countries. Using earth as one giant wardrobe to produce fast-fashion does not ring ethical and sustainability to the ear. But before you blow the whistle and call out foul play, let’s take a look at the current game strategy.

The H&M fashion machine has changed their ways and image since. They believe ethics and fast-fashion can live in harmony. They are making it clear that their current goal is to run the company in a more economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable way. As they tackle skeptics with lofty plans for the future and crunch numbers in their Sustainability Reports, consumers are left to be the referee of H & M’s goals in making Fast-Fashion ethical. They even go so far as to state they restrict certain chemicals if there is scientific uncertainty of its safety. H&M currently restricts over 200 substances. In 2012, the joined the Fair Wage Network to promote fair wages around the world. They have also implemented the Better Cotton Initiative to reduce pesticide use and the list goes on.

H&M is in a position to promote change beyond their own operations, whether you believe they achieve this or not is up to your discretion.

Still suspicious? Take a look at their sustainability report on their website.  (Link to  http://about.hm.com/content/hm/AboutSection/en/About/Sustainability/Reporting-and-Resources/Reports.html#cm-menu )

H&M Versus Skeptical Consumer – What Team Are You On?

Together, producers and consumers are attempting to change their ways. When it comes to sharing our water and being more responsible in using it, H&M is changing the game by making conscious steps to alter the ways in which they do business.

So what is water stewardship? It’s the effort for change. It’s working together to improve not only internal operations, but also the supply chain and sustainable management of freshwater resources that are being shared. It is the collaboration between communities, organizations, businesses, governments and consumers. Most importantly, it is about educating others and a commitment towards cleaner waterways and practices. Bjorne says, “For more than 10 years H&M has worked actively to reduce negative water impacts in different parts of the value chain.”

To raise awareness and increase cooperation, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2013 as the UN International Year of Water Cooperation. H&M hopes other fashion big name companies will follow in their footsteps as they embark on a new game plan of water stewardship and into the Year of Water Cooperation. The fashion industry has begun to slowly but surely lurch toward the ultimate goal of sustainability. Now is the time for change.