All our cotton is organic, in-conversion, recycled or sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative, and we are committed to making it even more sustainable.
Cotton is a natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre widely used in clothing, home textiles and furniture. It counts for almost a quarter of global fibre production and makes up a large share of our material portfolio. Cotton cultivation also provides employment and supports the livelihood of millions of people around the world.
Today, many brands are moving to more sustainable cotton. At H&M Group, we rely on the definition of more sustainable cotton recommended by Textile Exchange’s description of preferred cotton. This includes organic, in-conversion and recycled cotton as well as cotton sourced through organisations like the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa or Fair Trade Cotton.
In 2020, we reached our goal of sourcing all our cotton from more sustainable sources. Despite achieving this milestone, we will keep exploring other cotton types and innovations to bring sustainable change.
We want to use our size and scale to create positive change. By collaborating with other stakeholders such as the Organic Cotton Accelerator, we can contribute to increasing sustainable farming practices and improving the livelihoods of farmers.
How we source our cotton
Where our cotton comes from
Since 2020, all our cotton is organic, recycled or sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative.
By 2025, we aim to use 30% recycled materials in our products and by 2030, we want to use only recycled or other sustainably sourced materials. Recycled cotton will play an important role in helping us achieve these goals. Currently, we are the second biggest user of recycled cotton in the world according to Textile Exchange’s 2020 Material Change Insights Report.
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 from production, or from post-consumer textile waste from collected garments. These are mechanically recycled, ground into fibres, spun into new yarns and made into new fabrics. We also believe recycled cotton could be used to produce manmade cellulosic fibres such as lyocell and viscose.
Currently, there are some challenges in sorting and shredding cotton, and limitations in how the recycled fibre can be used. We are actively working to overcome these obstacles by collaborating with innovators, capacity building our supply chain on sorting, collecting and managing post-industrial fibre waste, as well as as re-engineering our products to include more recycled cotton content.
Better Cotton Initiative
Most of our cotton is sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). This non-profit organisation helps cotton growers convert to more environmentally friendly, and socially and economically sustainable farming methods. By the end of 2020, BCI had worked with 2.4 million farmers, equal to 23% of the world’s cotton production.
Thanks to their scalable and holistic approach, BCI is improving the standards of cotton farming on a landscape scale. Read more about Better Cotton and the BCI at bettercotton.org.
BCI and the mass-balance system
Cotton sourced through BCI is mixed with other cotton on its journey from the field to the final product. This is called a mass balance system.
Mass balance is an acknowledged way to boost sustainability. It is like when you buy renewable energy. You contribute to the growth of cleaner energy production rather than ensuring that a specific kind of electricity comes from your power sockets.
By sourcing cotton through BCI, we are playing a part in raising cotton production standards as well as helping farmers and the local environment.
Organic cotton cultivation benefits the environment. Because it doesn’t use chemical pesticides and insecticides it improves soil condition, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, strengthens biodiversity and improves cotton growers’ health.
It also has socio-economic benefits. Farming organically costs less and farmers can generate additional income from other crops they grow alongside organic cotton plants.
We’ve used organic cotton in our collections since 1990s and according to the Textile Exchange Material Change Insights Report 2021, we are the second biggest user of organic cotton in the world.
Today, more and more brands are sourcing organic cotton for their products. To help increase global production, we are a founding member of an industry initiative called the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA). The OCA aims to further strengthen the supply, demand and integrity of organic cotton.
Demand for organic cotton has boomed in recent years. We welcome this development, but it means that we cannot source the amount of organic cotton we need for our collections. To encourage and support more farmers to transition to organic cotton we will start using cotton from farms that are in the process of converting. This is called in-conversion cotton.
In-conversion cotton is a more sustainable option than conventional cotton. On average it takes three years for a farm to convert to organic cultivation. During this time the farm follows the principals of organic farming – no pesticides or synthetic fertilisers – and is independently audited each year. The only difference is that the crop is not yet certified organic.
By buying in-conversion cotton, we will help scale up organic production and support farmers in making the transition to organic cultivation.