The fashion industry is going through a major transformation. How is H&M Group positioning itself to be a part of this journey?
As a major player in the industry, we are well-positioned to not only be part of but to also lead the change on this journey. One area that we have been focusing on for a while is the shift from a linear to a circular business model, where we have the ambition to become fully circular. We are also constantly innovating and developing our sustainability work in line
with other developments in the industry. For example, we have accelerated our investments in AI and algorithm-driven retail and see them as important tools to not only grow our business in a sustainable way but also reach our sustainability goals.
How do you see the customer becoming a part of H&M Group’s sustainability journey?
Today we see a positive trend in customer behaviour, where more and more customers want to know where and how the garments are made, and how they can contribute to a sustainable fashion future. This year, we have developed a customer-facing transparency layer where our online customers can see sustainability information such as materials used, or in which factory the product has been made. We have also expanded our Take Care concept across more markets, which we see as an important step in helping our customers care for their favourite pieces longer and in that way prolong the lifespan of the product.
Looking back over the year, what has been the greatest achievement?
There are many things I’m proud to have been a part of, but one that stands out this year is our results from the five-year Fair Living Wage Strategy. We have not only achieved but exceeded in all our goals, affecting the lives of almost one million garment workers. This has been the result of many of my colleagues’ tremendous efforts to make an impact and drive change in a very challenging area. There is still a lot to be done and I can’t stress enough the need for alignment between different actors throughout the whole industry. Another achievement is our new packaging strategy, which is an important milestone towards our circular ambition. With our goal to only use recycled or sustainably sourced packaging materials by 2030, we will be able to have a big environmental impact, create a better shopping experience for our customers, and a better work environment for our colleagues.
… and what are the biggest lessons learned?
That big change takes a long time. For example, even though I am very proud of the results of our Fair Living Wage Strategy, I also wish that we could have come even further. But the issue of wages goes far beyond our own suppliers and their factories and we alone cannot change the industry. This also goes for many other sustainability challenges, such as scaling technologies for garment recycling, developing solutions for microfibre shedding and driving transparency on sustainability performance across the industry. Another important lesson from this year is the need to constantly keep sustainability integrated into the business, which can be a challenge given the rapid change and transformation that the retail industry is undergoing. In the light of the hoodie incident, we have learned that we need to do even more to integrate inclusion and diversity across our operations and beyond.
Back to H&M Group leading the change in the fashion industry transformation. Where do you see us in five years?
I hope that we will continue to lead the change towards a sustainable fashion industry. With all the technological advancements and ever-changing expectations from customers, it’s hard to have a clear picture of what exactly will be happening five years from now. But I am positive, that by then we will see wide use of both circular technologies and renewable energy that will move the fashion industry within the planetary boundaries. I hope that we will continue to stay true to our long-term direction and at the same time keep our agility. And of course, that we continue to dare, push boundaries, test, and never be afraid to fail.