Regardless of the material’s huge popularity — it’s a key fibre and the one we use the most in our clothes — cotton farming is the most water-draining factor in our supply chain, with sometimes thousands of litres of water needed to produce one single garment. But — there are many things we can do, and are doing, to improve our use of cotton. In October 2017, H&M Group was ranked in the category Leading the Way by the Sustainable Cotton Ranking, a collaboration between Solidaridad, WWF and Pesticide Action Network
Today, a gradual transition is happening, with many brands moving from conventional cotton to recycled cotton, organic cotton or cotton sourced through the BCI. We are happy to say that we support the change in the cotton industry.
There are other challenges related to cotton production, traceability being one of them. But thanks to the certifications we collect from organic and recycled cotton, moving towards achieving our goals also means moving towards traceability of cotton.
And every time one of our customers — at any of the brands within the group – buy a product made of cotton, they can also feel confident that they are supporting more responsible cotton production thanks to our 2020 goal and our investment in the Better Cotton Initiative.
Here, you can read more about the three types of cotton we source, all of them a lot better than conventional cotton, in different ways:
Better Cotton Initiative and Better Cotton
We are proud to be a founding member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). The BCI exists to make the global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future. The organisation trains farmers to use water efficiently, care for the health of the soil and natural habitats, reduce the use of harmful chemicals and respect the rights and well-being of workers. It’s a holistic approach to growing cotton in a more sustainable way.
Better Cotton can be mixed with other cotton before it reaches the factory, which means that Better Cotton can end up in both our products and our competitor's, which is why we don’t mark our labels with BCI. What a brand can ensure is that the amount of Better Cotton purchased by a factory corresponds to the amount needed for the production of its products. This applies to all brands and textile buyers. By ordering Better Cotton, we support a more sustainable cotton production, regardless of where the cotton ultimately ends up (in our own products or in our competitor's). This system, called Mass Balance, enables a faster upscaling of a more sustainable cotton production than would otherwise have been possible. The system is similar to when you buy renewable electricity (such as wind power, solar energy or renewable energy); it contributes to a cleaner electricity production rather than ensuring that this electricity ends up in your own electrical outlet.
Read more about Better Cotton and BCI at bettercotton.org.
Organic cotton is cotton grown without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers — and contains no genetically modified organisms (GMO). According to a Textile Exchange report from 2016, choosing organic cotton means 46 % less climate impact compared to conventionally grown cotton. At H&M Group all organic cotton products have been independently certified by accredited certification bodies according to the standards OCS (Organic Content Standard) or the GOTS (The Global Organic Textile Standard).
H&M group, as a founding member of the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), is actively involved in further strengthening the supply, demand and the integrity of organic cotton.
Recycled cotton is cotton made from textile remnants in production or from post-consumer textile waste from collected textiles, such as H&M’s textile collecting initiative, for instance.
These reclaimed cotton fabrics and clothes are mechanically shredded into fibres which are spun into new yarns. Recycled cotton reduces both the water use and the climate impact by over 75% compared to virgin cotton fibres. For all recycled materials, we use the independent third-party certifications GRS (Global Recycled Standard) and RCS (Recycled Claim Standard). Read more about recycling and textile collecting at H&M Group here.