Cotton

By the end of 2020, all our cotton will be sourced more sustainably. This means only recycled, organic, or fibres sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative — an important step as we lead the change towards a circular and renewable fashion industry.

Cotton is a natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre, widely used in clothing, home textiles and furniture. But it’s a climate intensive crop linked to high water and chemical use. This affects soil quality, biodiversity and people working in cotton fields.

H&M Group relies on the definition of more sustainable cotton fibres recommended by the global non-profit organisation Textile Exchange.

Today, many brands are moving to more sustainable cotton. By “more sustainable”, we mean either organic, recycled or cotton sourced through, for example, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa and Fair Trade Cotton.

Our customers can feel confident that they are supporting responsible cotton production, thanks to our 2020 goal and our investment in the BCI. We will keep looking for solutions that bring further improvements for cotton growers and the environment, while enabling our customers to make informed choices. 

Breakdown of sustainable cotton sources.

Cotton sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative

BCI is a non-profit organisation that helps cotton growers to embrace environmentally friendlier, and socially and economically sustainable farming methods. By the end of 2020, the BCI aims to support five million cotton growers in switching to smarter growing techniques — that’s 30% of global cotton production. Since the approach is scalable and holistic, the BCI is one of the biggest contributors to better cotton farming.  

Read more about Better Cotton and the BCI at bettercotton.org.


 

Sustainable cotton in % of total cotton sourcing.

BCI and the mass-balance system

The BCI relies on a mass-balance system, where BCI cotton is mixed with other types of cotton on its journey from the field to the final product. Mass balance is an acknowledged way to boost sustainability and is like the system used for renewable electricity available from the power grid. When you buy renewable you are contributing to the growth in cleaner energy production rather than ensuring that a specific kind of electricity comes from your power sockets. 

From a sustainability perspective it is important that improvements take place in the cotton fields, for the sake of the farmers and the local environment. The mass-balance system encourages suppliers to use more Better Cotton because it does not require costly physical separation along the supply chain.

 

H&M Group is one of the world's biggest buyers of sustainably sourced cotton.

Organic cotton

According to the Textile Exchange 2018 Materials Benchmark, H&M Group is the second biggest user of organic cotton in the world. Organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, which leads to better soil condition, lower greenhouse gas emissions, stronger biodiversity and better health for cotton growers. Organic cotton also uses 62% less energy and 71% less water on average, compared with conventional cotton. 

Organic cotton is not genetically modified. The crop is third-party certified and the fibre is kept separate in the supply chain. 

But favouring organic cotton could prevent the development of a more sustainable cotton industry. Organic cotton accounts for less than one per cent of the world’s cotton cultivation, making it a niche product with no scope to scale it up at the rate and to the extent that is required to make an impact on the cotton industry. Organic cotton yields smaller harvests and requires more land than conventional methods, while certification costs are high.

Even though it may seem complicated to scale the production of organic cotton we think it has a role to play and we want to improve the system. That’s why we are one of the founding members of an industry initiative called the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA). The OCA is working to further strengthen the supply, demand and integrity of organic cotton. 

 

Recycled cotton


H&M Group is the second biggest user of recycled cotton in the world, according to the Textile Exchange 2018 Materials Benchmark. Recycled materials are a win-win; they stop waste material from going to landfill and reduce the use of virgin raw materials (as well as chemicals, energy and water used to make them).

Recycled cotton is made from textile remnants in production, or from post-consumer textile waste from collected garments, such as those collected by our brands. These are mechanically recycled, ground into fibres, spun into new yarns and made into new fabrics. Technical challenges usually don’t allow for more than 20-30% of recycled cotton from post-consumer waste to be woven into fabrics without quality loss — much depends on the waste source and style. 


We are investing in new technologies to overcome this challenge because we want to increase the share of recycled materials and alternatives to cotton.

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