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Shifting to a circular future through resell, repair and rental

Being at the forefront in fashion and design today doesn’t only mean offering the latest trends. It also includes meeting customers’ growing interest in circular fashion with new business models including rental, resell and repairing. In 2020, H&M Group explored several exciting ventures across its brands.

H&M Group is exploring several new services across its brands to help customers enjoy fashion in a more sustainable way.

The biggest part of the fashion industry’s environmental footprint comes in the production phase. So, when a garment is reused or resold, the lifespan of the product increases. Also, when substituting a purchase of a new product for a used one, valuable resources are saved and COemissions decrease.

Sara Eriksson, Strategy Lead for Circular Business Development at H&M Group, says that offering new ways of shopping is highly important for the transition to a more circular industry.

“We have a responsibility to give customers the option to reduce their carbon footprint in convenient and attractive ways,” she says. “Expressing who you are through fashion doesn’t always have to mean buying something new.”

“Expressing who you are through fashion doesn’t always have to mean buying something new.”

Bringing customers onboard

One way to bring in new looks and styles without producing new products is through resale. H&M Group is exploring a number of resale concepts for its brands, both online and in store. One exciting initiative is COS Resell, which was launched in the UK and Germany during the autumn of 2020. The platform allows customers in these markets to buy and sell pre-owned items online.

Another initiative is a subscription rental programme for kids’ clothing at ARKET, which was launched in January 2021. Existing initiatives within the group continue to thrive, such as Weekday’s resell consignment programme in Sweden, Afound’s second-hand and vintage online categories, as well as H&M’s rental services for its Conscious Exclusive collection.

While the different initiatives still need to scale up to create real impact, they have proven to be extremely popular among customers, according to Sara Eriksson. “Sharing and passing things around as well as mixing the old with the new, is both a sustainable and economic way for customers to change and update their wardrobes. We want our customers to join us in our journey to become a circular business”.

Through COS Resell, customers can sell and buy pre-owned fashion favourites.

“By 2030 we need to live in a world in which 1 in 5 garments are traded through circular business models.”

Fashion on Climate: (McKinsey & Company)

The goal: manufacture all products in a circular way

Repairing damaged goods is another way to increase the use of products and prolong their lives. H&M’s Take Care programme offers customers tips and hacks for making their clothes look great for many years to come.

A growing number of locations also offer an in-store atelier for alterations and repairs. “Our main focus to succeed with these new business models is to meet changing customer behaviours, but we also see this as one of the few levers to pull to actually reach our goal to become climate positive by 2040,” Sara Eriksson says.

The game changing recycling innovation Looop machine – located in H&M’s flagship store in Stockholm – helps customers to recycle their old garments into new ones.

The Green Machine is one of the most exciting breakthroughs in fabric recycling technology right now and was used in the making of this collection for Monki.

Eventually the goal is to manufacture all products in a circular way, for example by taking the fibres from recycled garments and turning them into a new fabric, or by using waste from production to make new materials. This kind of closed-loop system decreases the use of scarce natural resources. One example is the Green machine, a technology that for the first time can fully separate and recycle cotton and polyester blends at scale. In November 2020, Monki was first in the world to launch a collection using the Green Machine system.

Another game changing recycling innovation launched in 2020, is the Looop machine, which transforms old garments into new ones – without the added environmental cost. The system recaptures valuable raw materials in recycled clothing and regenerates them back into fibres that are spun into new yarn and knitted into new clothes. The Looop machine is placed at H&M’s flagship store in Stockholm.

Reusable hangers cut down on plastic

However, reuse is not only about closing the loop on garments. H&M Group is constantly exploring how circularity can be used as a mindset throughout the whole value chain.

One example is decreasing the use of plastics by switching from single-use products to reusable ones made from more sustainable materials. During 2020, the H&M brand targeted plastic waste by starting to phase out non-recyclable hangers, which account for 59% of the group’s total plastic packaging. Instead of hangers made from fossil-based plastic, the new ones will be made of wood-fibre bio composite - possible to recycle. This will save 1,183 tonnes of plastic annually. The hangers will stay in stores during their whole lifetime, which is estimated to be 5–7 years.

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