News article

Testing a new normal for packaging 

With online shopping increasing worldwide and with that plastic waste, there is an increased need to find new solutions for more sustainable packaging. Now we introduce a new multi-brand paper packaging system that is reusable and recyclable.

With Black Week just behind us and holidays around the corner, online shopping has reached its peak.  And due to the pandemic taking over this year, it is safe to say that e-commerce has changed forever. But while online orders increasing as a general global trend, so is the packaging waste. Most of it being plastic that ends up in landfills or in the ocean, having an extremely negative impact on our planet.

In the fashion industry, plastic is one of the biggest challenges. It is not only used in synthetic materials such as polyester, but also in hangers, hang tags, single use shopping bags and polybags. When it comes to packaging, plastic is partly used to protect some products and prevent waste, which makes it even more challenging to replace. The question is: How can we prevent packaging from becoming waste itself and at the same time deliver top-quality products?

“We are introducing packaging that is better for both the customer and the environment”

At our distribution centres in the Netherlands, UK, Sweden, China, Russia and Australia, millions of packages have been sent to customers as part of a test for more sustainable packaging solutions. Motivated by the packaging strategy and to become a fully circular organisation, H&M Group has developed a multi-brand packaging system with bags made of certified paper. Once opened, the bags are recyclable.

Most materials apart from the products that are delivered become waste when they reach the customer. The aim of this new solution is to reduce the risk of creating that waste. On top of that, the branding labels now allow our brands to be more relevant with messaging, while the bags have a cleaner and nicer look. This in turn prevents packages having outdated messages on them, preventing another waste risk.

“We are introducing a type of packaging that is better for both the customer and the environment. It is yet to be improved since we need to continue working on replacing the use of plastic throughout our logistics supply chain. But by introducing this new multi-brand packaging we are creating a huge impact by replacing the outer plastic with a paper solution. This is a small step on a long  journey” Hanna Lumikero, Service owner and responsible for the new packaging system at H&M Group.

So far, the new packaging solution has been introduced to customers at COS, ARKET, Monki and Weekday. The H&M brand has started to implement it in selected markets, and this will only increase during the upcoming months and with that, reach an even bigger group of customers all around the world. In the beginning of 2021, the brand &Other Stories will join our journey and ship their online orders in recyclable paper-packaging.

“We use valuable input from our customers to improve and we know that they are happy about receiving their orders in more sustainable packaging. At the same time, we are committed to reducing plastic throughout our business and value chain. That is why we will implement this packaging solution in all of our brands” says Hanna Lumikero.

The packaging solution will help H&M Groups towards reaching the goals of its circular strategy for packaging, including reducing packaging by 25% and designing reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 at latest. The goals are aligned with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, as well as the Fashion Pact and Canopy’s initiative Pack4Good, and have led to H&M Group removing most of their plastic shopping bags in the brands stores, substituting with a certified paper option. Together with other actions, this has contributed to a 4,7% reduction in plastic packaging during 2019, which is over 1 000 tons of plastic. By implementing the new packaging pilot, H&M group moves closer to reaching these goals

Plastic is needed – but only sometimes

Plastic is not always a must to secure protection in packages, which has long been a common belief. H&M Groups’ new packaging system shows that paper can be as good at providing protection as plastic does.  In some cases, plastic is necessary, such as for fragile products or materials that need to be stored together during transportation.  One of the biggest challenges of plastic for online shopping and transport is that it is still commonly used throughout the long logistics supply chain. This is a ongoing effort by H&M Group to solve as soon as possible.   We are not quite there yet, but swapping out plastic for paper is an exciting milestone in our journey of becoming circular and climate positive.