Sustainability
Performance Report
2020

Making fashion and design accessible to everyone, in a way that’s good for people, the planet and our industry, means being accountable. In our Sustainability Performance Report, we openly and transparently report on our progress, challenges and learnings – to do better business and inspire meaningful change in our industry.

Remarkable stories emerged during 2020. Read on to download the report and explore the stories that highlight our work during the year.

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1/11

Securing fair jobs when fashion goes circular

The fashion industry needs to move from a linear business model to a circular one. But what actions are taken to secure that all new jobs in the circular economy are fair and good? In 2020, H&M Group joined a global programme that explores the implication the shift will have on workers in the value chain.

Linda Ingolfsdottir at H&M Group is responsible for securing fair jobs in the value chain. 02:21

With almost 1.6 million people working within H&M Group’s value chain comes a huge responsibility to support decent and meaningful jobs, but also to ensure that every action the group takes is making as much of a positive impact as possible.

When shifting to becoming a circular business – where we produce less and use products and materials longer – jobs throughout the value chain will be affected. For example, new sorts of jobs will be created and new skills required. At the same time, certain jobs might also disappear.

Linda Ingolfsdottir, Strategy Lead Fair Jobs at H&M Group, is working with H&M Group’s agenda to secure job opportunities in the future. “Making the shift to a circular fashion industry could both lead to new job opportunities for workers, as well as job losses,” she says. “As a buyer in the industry, H&M Group together with other stakeholders needs to make sure that the new jobs are fair and meaningful, and that job migration and upskilling are handled responsibly.”

Thanks to this collaboration, we will learn more about how a circular fashion industry will change the labour market as we know it today.

Linda Ingolfsdottir, Strategy Lead Fair Jobs at H&M Group.
Job migration and upskilling for workers will be important when shifting to become a circular business. Here at one of H&M Group’s supplier factories in Bandung, Indonesia.

Collaborating with industry leaders

In 2020, H&M Group took an important step to secure future jobs across its value chain by joining Keeping Workers in the Loop (KWIL). This global programme is a collaboration of industry leaders and stakeholders to advance a circular fashion industry that works for all parties.

Together, participants will co-create industry and policy recommendations that support and advance circular business models that offer dignified, inclusive and resilient employment opportunities.

We are thrilled to have H&M Group as a core company partner. We commend their careful attention to the social impacts of the transformation. 

 

The project is supported by Laudes Foundation and led by BSR, in partnership with CMS and economists from the University of Lincoln, and includes H&M Group, Shahi Exports, The Renewal Workshop, and VF Corporation as industry partners.

“We are thrilled to have H&M Group as a core company partner in KWIL. Beyond the depth of knowledge the team brings on how the industry is moving towards circularity, we commend their careful attention to the social impacts of the transformation and their openness to identify and test solutions that can work for both environment and people”, says Cliodhnagh Conlon, Associate Director, Consumer Sectors & Supply Chain at BSR.

“Thanks to this collaboration, we will learn more about how a circular fashion industry will change the labour market as we know it today,” says Linda Ingolfsdottir.

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2/11

Taking sustainable fashion to a new level with tech

Modern technology, such as 3D and AI, offer new, groundbreaking possibilities for how products can be designed and produced, as well as how they are experienced by customers. During 2020, H&M Group explored tech initiatives spreading from digital avatars to virtual fitting rooms – as well as 3D-based design that eliminates waste.

Watch how 3D technology can be one of the next gamechangers for circular fashion. 01:08

New technology opens up for totally new ways to engage with customers. One exciting example that H&M Group delved into in its internal innovation lab, is a personal avatar that helps customers try on clothes in virtual fittings. Besides making it possible to add another dimension to the shopping experience, virtual fittings could also help to improve accessibility and reduce product returns.

“By creating digital twins of our products, customers can try on clothes virtually,” says Frans Borgstrand, who is working with developing 3D technology at H&M Group. “And, if these virtual try-ons are based on individual measurements, for example from a digital body scan, the customer is more likely to find the ultimate size of a garment.”

By creating digital twins of our products, customers can try on clothes virtually to find the ultimate size of garment.

Frans Borgstrand is working with developing 3D technology at H&M Group.

Today, around 50% of H&M Group’s returns are based on size and fit not meeting customer expectations. “With the help of technology and this way of trying and experiencing products before deciding on a purchase, the number of returns could be reduced extensively in the future,” says Frans Borgstrand.

New tech solutions can also help to better match demand and supply. During 2020, H&M Group launched the AI tool Movebox, an algorithm that enables redistribution of products to locations where there is demand. Looking ahead, using this algorithm will also make it possible to react faster to changes in customer preferences, which will lead to a decrease in over production.

Saving material with 3D technology

But innovative technology can also be an excellent tool in the shift to a more circular fashion industry – for example, in the design stage. Moving away from designing a product using traditional sketches and physical samples to using 3D-based design production, can greatly reduce fabric waste.

To explore exactly how waste can be eliminated from the design process, the design team at H&M used 3D technology and zero waste pattern cutting techniques in the making of the Zero Waste Dress, which was launched in May 2020. The design team was inspired by the traditional way of making kimonos, which included not wasting any precious fabric.

By adjusting colour, shape and structure using 3D design, precious material is being saved.
The H&M dress was developed using zero waste pattern cutting techniques.

Today, far too much fabric is used to create prototypes in the initial stage of the design process. Using 3D technology dramatically cuts down the usage of that kind of material.

Recycled polyester was used to make the dress and instead of making several traditional prototypes before starting the production, the team adjusted colour, shape and structure using 3D technology. This allowed the team to reduce the number of samples during the design process, which saved a great amount of material. “Today, far too much fabric is used to create prototypes in the initial stage of the design process. Using 3D technology dramatically cuts down the usage of that kind of material,” says Frans Borgstrand.

According to Reverse Resources, there are roughly 4-5 million tonnes of cutting scraps generated globally each year. In the making of the Zero Waste Dress, the team combined the use of 3D design tools and zero waste pattern cutting techniques to eliminate the fabric scraps from the cutting tables, saving a lot of precious resources.

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3/11

Converting greenhouse gases into new materials

H&M Group’s journey towards becoming circular and climate positive includes exploring more sustainable materials. During 2020, H&M Group’s Circular Innovation Lab explored cutting-edge innovations such as carbon-negative materials, which remove more CO2 from the air than they emit. 

Watch how emissions are turned into new fashion materials.00:56

In 2020, 64,5% of the materials used by H&M Group were either recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way. To reach the goal of 100% by 2030, the group continuously keeps up to date with the latest research and developments, for example by connecting with inventive start-ups, some of them through H&M Foundation’s innovation challenge Global Change Award.

H&M Group’s Circular Innovation Lab is dedicated to investigating innovative and more sustainable materials as well as assuring that they can be upscaled in higher quantities and used in large-scale production.

“The goal is to find and test more sustainable materials that our brands will be able to use continuously in their collections,” says Mattias Bodin, Circular Innovation Lab Lead at H&M Group.

Exploring cutting-edge materials in French start-up Fairbrics’ laboratory.

The goal is to find and test more sustainable materials that our brands will be able to use continuously in their collections.

Mattias Bodin, Circular Innovation Lab Lead, H&M Group

Exploring carbon-negative materials

Carbon-negative materials, which remove more  CO2 from the air than they emit, are new cutting-edge areas that have raised the interest of the Circular Innovation Lab.

The 2020 Global Change Award winner Fairbrics is a startup that has invented what could be the first carbon-negative synthetic fibre partly made of  CO2 emissions.

This could potentially be an alternative to conventional fossil-based polyester. The Circular Innovation Lab is currently exploring how Fairbrics’ technology can be used to produce the first fabric for the group.

Another example is Berlin-based Made of Air, which essentially converts greenhouse gases into usable material by transforming waste residues from the wood industry into a carbon-negative compound that can replace plastic in a variety of applications.

The new material was used to make the sunglasses in the H&M Conscious Exclusive AW20 Collection.

This plastic-like material from H&M Group’s partner Made of Air, is actually storing carbon.

Turning waste into new fibres

Other interesting projects include the development of a sustainable fabric made with the regenerated textile fibre InfinnaTM produced by Infinited Fiber Company.

The Finnish startup’s technology can turn cotton-rich textile waste, cardboard and agricultural by-products into unique new textile fibres with a soft and natural look and feel.

After a successful test, H&M Group invested in the Infinited Fiber Company in 2019. As a result, in early 2021, the first garments – regenerated from 100% post-consumer textile waste – were launched in Weekday’s online store.

Partnering up further with the textile recycling company Renewcell.

In 2020, H&M Group also expanded its partnership with Renewcell by investing a further SEK 80 million (about USD 9.3 million) in the groundbreaking innovative Swedish textile recycling company.

Renewcell produces Circulose®, a dissolving pulp product made from unusable textile waste. The pulp is used as raw material for fibre production in H&M Group’s garment-making supply chain. Over a five-year period, Renewcell will provide H&M Group with tonnes of its pioneering virgin quality Circulose® fibres.

“The goal with our work is to find sustainable materials that the whole fashion industry can benefit from. As demand for these materials grows, they will also become more competitive,” says Martin Ekenbark, Circular Innovation Lab Project Manager at H&M Group.

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4/11

Hope ahead through refugee programme in Turkey

H&M Group constantly seeks opportunities to support inclusion of people across its global value chain. Together with its partners and suppliers, H&M Turkey helped more than 400 refugees to earn a living during 2020, while their employers discovered the benefits of diversity.

Bishir Khabbas, Yazan Al Arbash and Junaid Frej are working in one of H&M’s supplier factories in Turkey. 01:41

Since 2011 Turkey has become home to four million Syrians and other refugees, many who are struggling to find employment and become a part of Turkish society. At the same time, there are textile factories in Turkey facing a shortage of workers.

H&M Turkey spotted an opportunity for matchmaking in line with H&M Group’s efforts to promote inclusion and diversity. Finding jobs for the refugees would not only open the door to a new life for them, it would also lead to other positive effects.

“We know that diversity itself brings positive impacts for companies and more importantly we see a critical challenge in Turkey connected with the millions of refugees living here who need jobs,” says Oznur Ozcelik, Sustainability Social Program Responsible, H&M Turkey. “As a big buyer, we believe we have a responsibility in the communities where we have a presence.”

As a big buyer, we believe we have a responsibility in the communities where we have a presence.

Oznur Ozelik, Sustainability Social Program Responsible, H&M Turkey.

Promoting the benefits of diversity

H&M Group aims to enable ethical recruitment opportunities for 2,000 refugees within its suppliers’ operations by 2025. During 2020, more than 400 refugees were employed through the efforts of the foreign workers programme in Turkey alone. They have work permits, are socially insured, work in a safe work environment and they are paid according to Turkish law.

Through the programme, H&M Turkey works with local stakeholders, including the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, International Labour Organization (ILO), United Work and Mudem, to integrate refugees into the labour market. A work mentorship programme helps refugees cope with the challenges that come with a new job, culture and language.

Bishir Khabbas, Sewing Operator, is one of the refugees who has gotten employment.

H&M Turkey works very closely with its suppliers and part of Oznur Ozcelik’s job is to promote the benefits of diversity and refugee recruitment and encourage suppliers to get on board with the programme. Suppliers are often concerned that hiring refugees will create extra work and some are unaware that hiring refugees is legally possible.

The programme connects suppliers with the relevant stakeholders who can help with each step in the process such as hiring laws, funding, work permits, training and other details. Most importantly, the suppliers are presented with candidates for each job.

Throughout her more than 12-year long career at H&M Group, Oznur Ozcelik has been to a lot of factories and interviewed plenty of workers, including refugees, while conducting sustainability audits. “What motivates me most is to be able to have even the slightest positive impact on peoples’ lives, she says. 

Suppliers say that our work has helped them improve and change their vision,” says Oznur OzcelikThey also see that the refugees they hire are motivated and work well and this shows in supplier productivity.

A rewarded initiative – work for women

H&M Turkey also focuses on the recruitment of refugee women as they tend to be a more vulnerable group due to a general lack of work experience and cultural reasons. A project with H&M Group supplier Ekpen Tekstil and ILO was initiated in 2020 to promote decent work opportunities for refugee women from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Ekpen Tekstil created a training programme for 10 women. At the end of the period, some of the women were recruited for the factory production line,” says Oznur Ozcelik, Sustainability Social Program Responsible in Turkey. In 2020, Ekpen Tekstil received an award from Sustainable Business Awards Turkey in the Diversity and Inclusion category for their work with the programme.

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5/11

//Putting a price on carbon will be a game changer for us//

The fashion industry is at a crossroads where companies have to start taking financial responsibility for their emissions. Despite the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, H&M Group advanced its efforts in 2020 to take responsibility for the true cost of the group’s climate impact – by aiming to put a price on emissions.

Kim Hellström, Strategy Lead, Climate and Water at H&M Group.

2020 was a difficult year, with the global pandemic causing disruptions for many companies including H&M Group. “Covid-19 was an eye-opener for us and we learned how to be flexible and react quicker – and we didn’t stand still regarding the climate”, says Kim Hellström, Strategy Lead, Climate and Water for H&M Group.

Among the climate activities in 2020 was a massive retrofitting to LED lighting in 281 stores in 20 countries to increase energy efficiency. There was also the scaling up of Maersk Eco Delivery, the shipping giant’s carbon-neutral biofuel made from waste cooking oil. The new oil, which enables companies to cut down on their carbon footprint in transportation, accounted for 20% of H&M Group’s total shipping volume for the year.

By using sustainable biofuel, H&M Group is seeking to reduce carbon footprint in transportation.

Translating emissions into a financial cost

Another important step in 2020 towards H&M Group’s 2040 goal of becoming climate positive, was the development of an internal carbon pricing model and tool.

Internal carbon pricing will help to quantify costs for the emissions from the different decisions taken by the group – for instance when designing, producing and selling a product. By directly connecting emissions to a price on carbon, product developers at H&M Group can make more informed decisions when choosing where to produce an item or what material to use.

Product developers at H&M Group will see the true cost of carbon emissions already in the design stage, thanks to a new internal tool.

We are really connecting the dots now. Translating emissions into a financial cost is a super efficient way to reduce emissions through practical actions.

Working with this tool will raise company-wide awareness of the real cost of carbon and lead to a reduced climate impact without affecting the final cost for customers.

“We are really connecting the dots now,” Kim Hellström says. “Carbon pricing will be a game changer for us, affecting how we work and helping us lower our emissions. Translating emissions into a financial cost is a super efficient way to reduce emissions through practical actions.”

During the year, a decision was also taken to form a green investment team, responsible for managing climate-related funds. The team will invest the funds in various climate initiatives and projects to reduce future CO2 emissions in the supply chain, Kim Hellström explains.

Part of the company is solely focused on making good investments where the ROI is CO2 reductions.

“This means that a part of the company is solely focused on making good investments where the ROI (Return On Investment) is CO2 reductions. We find out where we can get the biggest emission reductions and that is where we put our money.”

Kim Hellström believes the fashion industry is at a crossroads where companies have to start taking financial responsibility for their emissions or risk being left behind by customers.

“It’s a bumpy road ahead but we have started taking actions through carbon pricing and our green investment team. Companies that haven’t started their journey will have an even bumpier road ahead,” he says.

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6/11

Protecting biodiversity through responsible farming

An astonishing 75% of all land on earth has been significantly altered by human activities such as agriculture, which is a major cause of biodiversity loss. During 2020, H&M Group took important steps to reduce its own negative impact on biodiversity through, for example, helping farmers improve biodiversity by switching to responsible rattan and organic cotton.

Educating farmers about the benefits of organic cotton farming in India.

By the end of 2020, 100% of H&M Group’s cotton was either organic, recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way. This is thanks to a number of efforts in recent years, including a partnership with the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) to help farmers in India shift to growing organic cotton. Organic cotton is produced using ecological processes and without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or genetically modified seeds.

This helps maintain local biodiversity. Organic cotton farms also use much less water than conventional cotton farms as they mainly rely on rainwater, says Suhas Khandagale, responsible for H&M Group’s Global cotton production. “Overall, it’s a way of farming that focuses on preserving soil health and caring for the farmer’s family, community and planet,” he says.

Farmer Shersingh Bhilya is growing organic cotton in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India.

It’s a way of farming that focuses on preserving soil health and caring for the farmer’s family, community and planet.

Suhas Khandagale is responsible for H&M Group's Global cotton production.

Establish complete traceability

The principal programme with OCA, the Farmer Engagement and Development (FED) programme, is aimed at building sustainable and reliable organic cotton by demonstrating the business case for farmers to grow it. FED also improves transparency and risk management for brands and retailers through, for example, conducting random audits and quality checks. 

“With our 100% transparent supply chain we are able to establish complete traceability from farm to fashion, for all the products that are produced using the cotton from these farm projects,” says Suhas Khandagale.

By participating in projects with the Organic Cotton Accelerator and other organic cotton initiatives in India during the 2019-2020 crop season, H&M Group’s support resulted in 13,000 farmers involved in organic cotton projects. This is a dramatic increase from 1,300 farmers in 2017.

“All partners who manage these projects have continued to engage with us on capacity building and scaling up on volumes each year,” says Suhas Khandagale. “That demonstrates the commitment from everyone towards the future of the organic cotton sector.”

Rattan farming for future generations

Man-made cellulosic fibres, or MMC, are the third biggest materials sourced by H&M Group. Hence, it’s important that no ancient and endangered forests are put at risk in the name of fashion and design. Through a collaboration with WWF, H&M Group is encouraging farmers and suppliers to produce and market responsible rattan – the collective noun for roughly 600 species of climbing trees.

Belonging to the palm family, rattan is used to make furniture, handicrafts and other goods. Over the years, many communities have been converting their rattan fields into more lucrative crops like bananas or rubber or sold their fields for mining, putting biodiversity at risk.

Rattan that has been sustainably harvested in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.
The certified rattan is used to produce interior decorations for H&M Home.

In Indonesia however, the Katingan Rattan Farmers Association representing more than 200 rattan farmers, is practicing responsible rattan management in its local area in Central Kalimantan. This is an area that has been identified as a High Conservation Value forest and it’s a place where orangutans, birds and other wildlife flourish. The farmers participate in maintaining and preserving the forest. This in turn ensures the survival of rattan, which relies on forests for growth.

“Responsible rattan farming ensures that rattan is harvested in a sustainable manner and harvested legally,” says Anya Sapphira, Regional Sustainability Manager, H&M Group Production Office Indonesia. “It is also a way to safeguard the ecosystem processes, species and human livelihoods. By providing a source of income to rural people, it allows them to become stewards and guards of their forests and biodiversity.”

By providing a source of income to rural people, it allows them to become stewards and guards of their forests and biodiversity.

Anya Sapphira, Regional Sustainability Manager, H&M Group Production Office Indonesia.

Building a sustainable business case

The Katingan Rattan Farmers Association is among the first non-timber forest product groups to receive FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) forest management certification. A total of 690.58 hectares have been certified since 2018. “H&M Group joined forces with WWF at the beginning of 2019 to do what we are best at – building a sustainable business case,” says Heidi Paramita Madiadipura, H&M Home Production Manager.

“Our focus is to strengthen the material quality level to meet customer demand and create a sustainable value chain. Wwork with business partners or suppliers who share the same values and commitments to positive environmental and social impacts.” 

Helping farmers save water while increasing their income

A new innovation in recycling may help protect harvests. Non-profit H&M Foundation, its research partner HKRITA and one of India’s largest apparel manufacturer Shahi ran a pilot project in 2020 to test a super absorbent powder in cotton farming.

The results showed that the powder was able to keep the soil moist, reducing the need for irrigation and saving water for local communities. In addition, the quality of the cotton was improved with longer and stronger fibres and harvests increased by 20%. This implies that cotton farmers could ask a higher price for their cotton and thus increase their income. The pilot will scale up in 2021 with further trials on a larger area of land.

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7/11

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 CO2 emissions 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.

Sara Eriksson, Strategy Lead for Circular Business Development at H&M Group.

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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8/11

//2020 was a huge milestone in our transparency work//

Transparency played a key role in driving H&M Group’s sustainability efforts forward during 2020. But what is transparency really about and what initiatives has the group been driving to push the boundaries? Giorgina Waltier, Transparency Strategy & Engagement Lead at H&M Group, shares her thoughts on customer empowerment and why exposing sustainability impacts on a pair of jeans can drive real change.

Giorgina Waltier, Transparency Strategy & Engagement Lead at H&M Group.

Hi Giorgina Waltier! Transparency has been a buzzword when it comes to sustainability for some time now, but what does it really mean?

“To me personally, transparency is about honesty and clarity. It means taking responsibility for our work and our impact on the planet and people. More specifically, for H&M Group, transparency means sharing accountable, accurate sustainability information relating to our products, supply chain, business practices and policies to customers and stakeholders.”

What could access to informative and transparent data result in?

“By sharing information about how a product has been produced – and what environmental and social impacts it has had – we believe we can empower customers to make more informed decisions when they want to make a purchase from any of our brands. According to new research, 55% of shoppers say sustainability is more important to them than value or quality – but how can customers identify sustainable products and trust that they are as sustainable as they claim to be? We believe that product transparency is the solution.”

55% of shoppers say sustainability is more important to them than value or quality – but how can customers identify sustainable products and trust that they are as sustainable as they claim to be?

What can transparent product information look like?

“Across all our brands we make sure that products that include more sustainable materials are clearly labelled on hangtags, so they are easily identifiable. We also make this information available online on the product description pages whenever possible.”

“But we want to push our product transparency much further by providing information about for example, the carbon, water and energy footprint of, say, a pair of jeans – or providing the data about the environmental impacts of the factory that has made those jeans. This is the kind of data that we are working to share with the customer on a product level, but we need to take this step by step, as connecting all the dots is incredibly complex.”

Product transparency – showing environmental impact for a pair of jeans on hm.com

Did H&M Group take any important steps during 2020?

“We were of course very happy and proud that our work with transparency got recognition, when we were ranked as number one in the Fashion Transparency Index 2020. But we still have a lot of work to do and our efforts to improve our level of transparency continue. The H&M brand was, for example, part of a product transparency pilot with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Higg Index last year that gave us really important insights about how we can share impact data on our products and how the customer reacts to this.”

“Many of our other brands also succeeded in taking transparency to the next level during 2020. COS conducted a blockchain traceability pilot on a selection of products and ARKET launched their Sustainability Fact Sheet which shares the details of all ARKET suppliers with the customer online.”

What were the other important milestones last year?

“Another huge 2020 milestone was the development of a denim collection that sought to share environmental impact data with the customer. The result of this work, the Lee x H&M Collection, was launched at the end of January 2021.”

“While working with this collection, sustainability representatives from the company like myself as well as our CEO Helena Helmersson, met virtually with fashion influencers to hear their thoughts on sustainability and hopes for the future. Their input on sustainable fashion was extremely valuable and really taught us a lot! This kind of interaction with our customers is also a way for us to be more transparent.”

Transparent talking: Giorgina Waltiers in a conversation with model Deba Hekmat. 13:47

You mentioned showing environmental impact data – tell us more!

“It was the first time that we applied a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to a collection and shared the findings with our customers on products. By running an LCA we were able to show the customer some of the potential environmental impact reductions that can be created by using more sustainable materials. These impacts included CO2 equivalent emissions, water use and energy use. Using and sharing LCA data in this way has enabled us to take our product transparency to a totally new level and we are currently exploring how we can apply similar data to more collections across our brands.”

Last but not least – what does the future hold?

“There are a lot of exciting new developments around the corner. As data processing solutions and tech improvements continue, transparency will take on a whole new life in the next few years. The fashion industry will probably move away from sharing information on static web pages, to fully digital wardrobes, where transparency becomes part of your everyday interaction with both the clothes in your closet and the clothes you are looking to buy, sell, share, swap or recycle. The future of transparency is very exciting!”

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9/11

Downsizing plastic with the help of smart design

Exploring new ways to maximise resources and minimise waste is crucial on the journey to becoming a circular business. In 2020, H&M Group took a big leap, by shifting from plastic to paper with a new multi-brand packaging concept for online orders.

Packaging is important to protect products and ensure they arrive in good shape to stores and customers. But packaging also uses valuable resources and creates a lot of waste.

Towards the end of 2020, H&M Group started to send online orders using a new packaging concept based on a minimalistic design solution made of certified paper. The plan is for all brands, in all markets, to use the packaging by 2022.

“The new packaging concept was a milestone during 2020, taking us closer to meeting our packaging goals,” says Ulrika Nordvall Bardh, Strategy Lead Circular Economy at H&M Group.

In 2020, H&M Group reduced its packaging by 14%, including 24% less plastic packaging.

The paper packaging is recyclable and Ulrika Nordvall Bardh points out that it meets the same safety requirements as the previous packaging, made of plastic.

The brown paper bags and boxes might not look like much at first glance, but the clever design makes it very easy to add character to the packaging. The adhesive label that closes the bag can be customised by each H&M Group brand, as well as adapted to a certain season or printed with a specific message.

Going for fewer plastics

As a member and signatory of the initiatives The New Plastics Economy, Global Commitment and The Fashion Pact, H&M Group is determined to address plastic pollution.

The ambition is to phase out unnecessary, problematic and single-use plastic packaging. H&M Group’s new packaging concept however still contains an inner bag mainly made of post-consumer recycled plastics, in the majority of its shipments. This is due to the fact that inner plastic bags still are commonly used on industry level through the long logistics supply chain, for example, for safety and hygiene reasons. Efforts are ongoing within the group to find an alternative solution as soon as possible.

It’s no secret that plastics have an extremely negative impact. We need to leave behind today’s linear business model and move towards a circular economy.

Ulrika Nordvall Bardh, Strategy Lead Circular Economy at H&M Group.

“It’s no secret that plastics have an extremely negative impact on the environment. That’s why we need to leave behind today’s linear business model and move towards a circular economy for plastics, in which plastic never becomes waste,” says Ulrika Nordvall Bardh. “Addressing our packaging solutions and phasing out plastic where it’s possible is a very important step in the right direction.”

And the numbers speak for themselves. With the new packaging system in place, 100,278 kg of plastic was eliminated during 2020. During 2021, that number is estimated to skyrocket to 1,529,097 kg. The share of paper bags will then account for 58% of the total bags used.

H&M Group’s packaging goals:

  • Reduce packaging across our value chain by 25% by 2025 (2018 baseline).
  • Design all packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
  • Make all packaging from recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030, with a preference for recycled materials.
  • Reuse or recycle all packaging waste from our own sites by 2025.

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Built with circularity – from storefronts to office floors

For H&M Group, a circular mindset goes beyond embracing new ways of designing products and recycling textiles. It also includes looking at how stores and offices can be constructed and furnished in a more sustainable way – for example by using textile dust, waste and old yoghurt pots.

See how sustainable spaces are being created with the help from dust and microorganisms. 01:00

H&M Group has around 5,000 stores as well as offices and distributions centres worldwide. Having sustainability in mind when designing, planning and constructing these environments can obviously have a significant impact.

H&M Group’s Circular Innovation Lab is dedicated to investigating new, innovative and more sustainable materials and processes that can reduce the group’s carbon footprint. Finding new materials for the group’s built environments, with the potential to be upscaled, is a continuous challenge. During 2020 the lab worked on many groundbreaking projects. One of these was basically born out of waste from old textiles.

H&M Group’s partner Really creates interior panels made from textile fibres and dust.
These panels have been used as interiors in H&M stores as well as in this pop-up concept for COS.

The Danish startup Really has invented a method to upcycle end-of-life textiles into premium quality, engineered textile boards. In a pilot collaboration, the Circular Innovation Lab and Really developed interior panels made of dust coming from a recycling process for end-of-life textiles as a feedstock. The interior panels from Really have been used as interiors in H&M stores as well as in a pop-up concept for COS – saving 3,198 kilograms of fabric waste.

Until now, we have only been able to reduce emissions caused by these materials by using less of them. That is simply not enough.

Martin Ekenbark, Project Manager at H&M Group's Circular Innovation Lab.

Exploring lab-grown concrete

Among the other exciting projects taking place is the testing of biocement, a material that can actually grow with the help of microorganisms. BioMason is an American startup that challenges conventional concrete with biocement made of waste aggregate and microorganisms mixed with water.

The innovation can reduce a crucial amount of the carbon footprint, something which raised the Circular Innovation Lab’s interest. Tiles and concrete pose major challenges from a sustainability aspect, since they have a high climate impact and can’t be recycled.

A promising pilot has begun to test biocement as a floor in one of the H&M offices in Sweden. Finding new alternatives to tiles and concrete, as well as processes for manufacturing these materials in more sustainable ways, could have a major positive impact. “Until now, we have only been able to reduce emissions caused by these materials by using less of them. That is simply not enough,” says Martin Ekenbark, Project Manager at H&M Group’s Circular Innovation Lab.

The cutting-edge innovation Biocement grows in a lab and has very little impact on the environment.

Shining a light on optimising resources

Construction and demolition waste accounts for approximately 25–30% of all waste generated in the European Union. This waste consists of materials such as concrete, wood, metals, glass and plastic – many of which can be recycled and reused.

During 2020, H&M Group created a strategy for reducing its carbon footprint caused by built spaces, made in in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “Becoming a fully circular business needs to be applied throughout the entire value chain. An important part has been to not only address our core business, but also our built environments,” says Ulrika Nordvall Bardh, Strategy Lead Circular Economy at H&M Group.

Ulrika Nordvall Bardh, Strategy Lead Circular Economy at H&M Group.
& Other Stories prolonged the life of their mannequins to save resources and new material.

“By using a circular mindset, we can save a lot of resources,” says Ulrika Nordvall Bardh, pointing out that sustainability efforts go hand in hand with profitability.

The new strategy for built environments shines a light on optimising resources used in the group’s stores and offices, by reusing interior and construction materials to cut waste.

“With the help from our creative sales teams, many brands have contributed to a circular mindset in stores during 2020. For example, & Other Stories has prolonged the life of its mannequins by using environmentally friendly water-based colours to change the appearance of the mannequins, instead of ordering new ones. Another inspiring example is Monki, which has used recycled yoghurt pots in their window interiors.”

H&M Group’s circular built environment goals:

  • Reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions across our value chain by 50% by 2030
  • Design all new products for stores, offices and distribution centres to be reusable, repairable or recyclable from 2021 
  • Use only recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030, with preference for post-recycled materials 
  • Reuse, repair or recycle all products and materials by 2030, with preference for reuse 

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11/11

Saving water to protect every precious drop

Water is a scarce resource in many parts of the world and one of the fashion industry’s biggest environmental challenges. Conserving, reusing and recycling water is an ongoing effort for H&M Group and during this past year 18,219,486 m3 wastewater was recycled – the equivalent of 7,288 Olympic swimming pools. A number of local initiatives in Asia had a positive impact.

In this treatment plant at one of H&M Group’s supplier’s in India, wastewater is recycled back into production again.

It’s no secret that the textile industry is water intensive. Cultivating cotton, dyeing textiles, garment finishing as well as customer usage all require a great deal of water. An astounding 7,000 litres of water go into making a pair of jeans – enough drinking water to meet one person’s needs for seven years.

Managing water in a more responsible way is therefore at the top of H&M Group’s priority list, as it works towards becoming fully circular and renewable. H&M Group’s Water Roadmap 2018–22 includes a number of targets, for example having 15% recycled water back in the process. This goal was met already in 2020. Additionally, all business partners must comply with H&M Group’s Sustainability Commitment and water management requirements.

Harvesting and recycling rainwater can make a big impact.

Based in Bangladesh, Sharif Hoque, Water Sustainability Responsible at H&M Group, works closely with partners and suppliers to get a deeper understanding of the water needs in the region.

“Water is a local issue unlike climate,” he says. “This means the challenge and risk that we have in a specific river basin or catchment is unique and the solutions also need to be derived from there. We bring the technical knowledge and the business incentive to support our business partners to become more sustainable.”

Sharif Hoque, Water Sustainability Responsible at H&M Group.

An astounding 7,000 litres of water go into making a pair of jeans – enough drinking water to meet one person’s needs for seven years.

Together with external partners such as WWF, Sweden Textile Water Initiative (STWI) and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), a number of initiatives to reduce water consumption are underway in H&M Group’s most important production markets: Bangladesh, India and Indonesia. Together, these three markets cover almost 50% of the group’s total production.

Stuart Orr, Global Freshwater Lead, WWF : “The textile industry has an important role to play in the transition to a healthier planet where we combat biodiversity loss and climate crisis, and secure clean water for all. H&M Group has the size and is willing to take responsibility for the whole chain, not just their own footprint. Following a partnership dating back to 2011, H&M Group and WWF just signed a new five year partnership agreement with the ambition to make a change for the whole industry.”

This denim washing machine consumes substantially less water compared to conventional washing machines.
At the Paradise Washing Plant facility in Bangladesh, the inhouse lab is collecting the wastewater discharge sample for quality testing.

The textile industry is Bangladesh’s largest export earner and crucial for the country’s economy. At the same time, Bangladesh’s groundwater is depleting and water efficiency and recycling efforts are urgently needed.

In 2019, H&M Bangladesh initiated a project with one of its suppliers, the Paradise Washing Plant of Ananta Group, to recycle wastewater in the denim washing process. In 2020, the washing plant was able to recycle 25% of its total production water consumed during the year.

Following the success of the project, H&M Bangladesh has taken its water recycling efforts further. Today, 19 denim and twill washing units in Bangladesh are recycling their wastewater and reducing their freshwater consumption.

Water is a local issue unlike climate. We bring the technical knowledge and the business incentive to support our business partners to become more sustainable.

India also faces severe water shortages, with just 4% of the world’s freshwater resources and a population of over 1.3 billion people. In collaboration with STWI, H&M India is helping suppliers like Shahi Exports, one of India’s largest apparel manufacturers, implement rainwater harvesting and other water-saving systems.

This supplier has also upgraded its effluent treatment system to allow virtually all of its production wastewater to be recycled. “There is no discharge of any wastewater,” says Sharif Hoque. “100% recycled water is used in washing and for the boiler so there is low dependency on external water sources and groundwater.”

Between 2018 and 2020, Shahi Exports managed to reduce its water consumption per piece of clothing by 38%. “We are on a journey to find solutions and want to engage more with our business partners and stakeholders. Ultimately, we want to see the whole industry participating in these efforts.” continues Sharif Hoque.

Indonesia is another major textile producer and while the country has an abundance of fresh water, it is not evenly distributed throughout the country. Textile mill PT. Dewasutratex, one of H&M Indonesia’s business partners, has begun installing rainwater harvesting systems. Between 2017-2020, two PT. Dewasutratex facilities in Bandung collected over 777,317 m3 of rainwater. That’s enough water to cover the needs of 590 Indonesians for a full year.

Fair jobs in a circular future

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Securing fair jobs when fashion goes circular

The fashion industry needs to move from a linear business model to a circular one. But what actions are taken to secure that all new jobs in the circular economy are fair and good? In 2020, H&M Group joined a global programme that explores the implication the shift will have on workers in the value chain.

Linda Ingolfsdottir at H&M Group is responsible for securing fair jobs in the value chain. 02:21

With almost 1.6 million people working within H&M Group’s value chain comes a huge responsibility to support decent and meaningful jobs, but also to ensure that every action the group takes is making as much of a positive impact as possible.

When shifting to becoming a circular business – where we produce less and use products and materials longer – jobs throughout the value chain will be affected. For example, new sorts of jobs will be created and new skills required. At the same time, certain jobs might also disappear.

Linda Ingolfsdottir, Strategy Lead Fair Jobs at H&M Group, is working with H&M Group’s agenda to secure job opportunities in the future. “Making the shift to a circular fashion industry could both lead to new job opportunities for workers, as well as job losses,” she says. “As a buyer in the industry, H&M Group together with other stakeholders needs to make sure that the new jobs are fair and meaningful, and that job migration and upskilling are handled responsibly.”

Thanks to this collaboration, we will learn more about how a circular fashion industry will change the labour market as we know it today.

Linda Ingolfsdottir, Strategy Lead Fair Jobs at H&M Group.
Job migration and upskilling for workers will be important when shifting to become a circular business. Here at one of H&M Group’s supplier factories in Bandung, Indonesia.

Collaborating with industry leaders

In 2020, H&M Group took an important step to secure future jobs across its value chain by joining Keeping Workers in the Loop (KWIL). This global programme is a collaboration of industry leaders and stakeholders to advance a circular fashion industry that works for all parties.

Together, participants will co-create industry and policy recommendations that support and advance circular business models that offer dignified, inclusive and resilient employment opportunities.

We are thrilled to have H&M Group as a core company partner. We commend their careful attention to the social impacts of the transformation. 

 

The project is supported by Laudes Foundation and led by BSR, in partnership with CMS and economists from the University of Lincoln, and includes H&M Group, Shahi Exports, The Renewal Workshop, and VF Corporation as industry partners.

“We are thrilled to have H&M Group as a core company partner in KWIL. Beyond the depth of knowledge the team brings on how the industry is moving towards circularity, we commend their careful attention to the social impacts of the transformation and their openness to identify and test solutions that can work for both environment and people”, says Cliodhnagh Conlon, Associate Director, Consumer Sectors & Supply Chain at BSR.

“Thanks to this collaboration, we will learn more about how a circular fashion industry will change the labour market as we know it today,” says Linda Ingolfsdottir.

Exploring 3D & AI

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2/11

Taking sustainable fashion to a new level with tech

Modern technology, such as 3D and AI, offer new, groundbreaking possibilities for how products can be designed and produced, as well as how they are experienced by customers. During 2020, H&M Group explored tech initiatives spreading from digital avatars to virtual fitting rooms – as well as 3D-based design that eliminates waste.

Watch how 3D technology can be one of the next gamechangers for circular fashion. 01:08

New technology opens up for totally new ways to engage with customers. One exciting example that H&M Group delved into in its internal innovation lab, is a personal avatar that helps customers try on clothes in virtual fittings. Besides making it possible to add another dimension to the shopping experience, virtual fittings could also help to improve accessibility and reduce product returns.

“By creating digital twins of our products, customers can try on clothes virtually,” says Frans Borgstrand, who is working with developing 3D technology at H&M Group. “And, if these virtual try-ons are based on individual measurements, for example from a digital body scan, the customer is more likely to find the ultimate size of a garment.”

By creating digital twins of our products, customers can try on clothes virtually to find the ultimate size of garment.

Frans Borgstrand is working with developing 3D technology at H&M Group.

Today, around 50% of H&M Group’s returns are based on size and fit not meeting customer expectations. “With the help of technology and this way of trying and experiencing products before deciding on a purchase, the number of returns could be reduced extensively in the future,” says Frans Borgstrand.

New tech solutions can also help to better match demand and supply. During 2020, H&M Group launched the AI tool Movebox, an algorithm that enables redistribution of products to locations where there is demand. Looking ahead, using this algorithm will also make it possible to react faster to changes in customer preferences, which will lead to a decrease in over production.

Saving material with 3D technology

But innovative technology can also be an excellent tool in the shift to a more circular fashion industry – for example, in the design stage. Moving away from designing a product using traditional sketches and physical samples to using 3D-based design production, can greatly reduce fabric waste.

To explore exactly how waste can be eliminated from the design process, the design team at H&M used 3D technology and zero waste pattern cutting techniques in the making of the Zero Waste Dress, which was launched in May 2020. The design team was inspired by the traditional way of making kimonos, which included not wasting any precious fabric.

By adjusting colour, shape and structure using 3D design, precious material is being saved.
The H&M dress was developed using zero waste pattern cutting techniques.

Today, far too much fabric is used to create prototypes in the initial stage of the design process. Using 3D technology dramatically cuts down the usage of that kind of material.

Recycled polyester was used to make the dress and instead of making several traditional prototypes before starting the production, the team adjusted colour, shape and structure using 3D technology. This allowed the team to reduce the number of samples during the design process, which saved a great amount of material. “Today, far too much fabric is used to create prototypes in the initial stage of the design process. Using 3D technology dramatically cuts down the usage of that kind of material,” says Frans Borgstrand.

According to Reverse Resources, there are roughly 4-5 million tonnes of cutting scraps generated globally each year. In the making of the Zero Waste Dress, the team combined the use of 3D design tools and zero waste pattern cutting techniques to eliminate the fabric scraps from the cutting tables, saving a lot of precious resources.

Innovative materials

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3/11

Converting greenhouse gases into new materials

H&M Group’s journey towards becoming circular and climate positive includes exploring more sustainable materials. During 2020, H&M Group’s Circular Innovation Lab explored cutting-edge innovations such as carbon-negative materials, which remove more CO2 from the air than they emit. 

Watch how emissions are turned into new fashion materials.00:56

In 2020, 64,5% of the materials used by H&M Group were either recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way. To reach the goal of 100% by 2030, the group continuously keeps up to date with the latest research and developments, for example by connecting with inventive start-ups, some of them through H&M Foundation’s innovation challenge Global Change Award.

H&M Group’s Circular Innovation Lab is dedicated to investigating innovative and more sustainable materials as well as assuring that they can be upscaled in higher quantities and used in large-scale production.

“The goal is to find and test more sustainable materials that our brands will be able to use continuously in their collections,” says Mattias Bodin, Circular Innovation Lab Lead at H&M Group.

Exploring cutting-edge materials in French start-up Fairbrics’ laboratory.

The goal is to find and test more sustainable materials that our brands will be able to use continuously in their collections.

Mattias Bodin, Circular Innovation Lab Lead, H&M Group

Exploring carbon-negative materials

Carbon-negative materials, which remove more  CO2 from the air than they emit, are new cutting-edge areas that have raised the interest of the Circular Innovation Lab.

The 2020 Global Change Award winner Fairbrics is a startup that has invented what could be the first carbon-negative synthetic fibre partly made of  CO2 emissions.

This could potentially be an alternative to conventional fossil-based polyester. The Circular Innovation Lab is currently exploring how Fairbrics’ technology can be used to produce the first fabric for the group.

Another example is Berlin-based Made of Air, which essentially converts greenhouse gases into usable material by transforming waste residues from the wood industry into a carbon-negative compound that can replace plastic in a variety of applications.

The new material was used to make the sunglasses in the H&M Conscious Exclusive AW20 Collection.

This plastic-like material from H&M Group’s partner Made of Air, is actually storing carbon.

Turning waste into new fibres

Other interesting projects include the development of a sustainable fabric made with the regenerated textile fibre InfinnaTM produced by Infinited Fiber Company.

The Finnish startup’s technology can turn cotton-rich textile waste, cardboard and agricultural by-products into unique new textile fibres with a soft and natural look and feel.

After a successful test, H&M Group invested in the Infinited Fiber Company in 2019. As a result, in early 2021, the first garments – regenerated from 100% post-consumer textile waste – were launched in Weekday’s online store.

Partnering up further with the textile recycling company Renewcell.

In 2020, H&M Group also expanded its partnership with Renewcell by investing a further SEK 80 million (about USD 9.3 million) in the groundbreaking innovative Swedish textile recycling company.

Renewcell produces Circulose®, a dissolving pulp product made from unusable textile waste. The pulp is used as raw material for fibre production in H&M Group’s garment-making supply chain. Over a five-year period, Renewcell will provide H&M Group with tonnes of its pioneering virgin quality Circulose® fibres.

“The goal with our work is to find sustainable materials that the whole fashion industry can benefit from. As demand for these materials grows, they will also become more competitive,” says Martin Ekenbark, Circular Innovation Lab Project Manager at H&M Group.

Hope ahead in Turkey

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4/11

Hope ahead through refugee programme in Turkey

H&M Group constantly seeks opportunities to support inclusion of people across its global value chain. Together with its partners and suppliers, H&M Turkey helped more than 400 refugees to earn a living during 2020, while their employers discovered the benefits of diversity.

Bishir Khabbas, Yazan Al Arbash and Junaid Frej are working in one of H&M’s supplier factories in Turkey. 01:41

Since 2011 Turkey has become home to four million Syrians and other refugees, many who are struggling to find employment and become a part of Turkish society. At the same time, there are textile factories in Turkey facing a shortage of workers.

H&M Turkey spotted an opportunity for matchmaking in line with H&M Group’s efforts to promote inclusion and diversity. Finding jobs for the refugees would not only open the door to a new life for them, it would also lead to other positive effects.

“We know that diversity itself brings positive impacts for companies and more importantly we see a critical challenge in Turkey connected with the millions of refugees living here who need jobs,” says Oznur Ozcelik, Sustainability Social Program Responsible, H&M Turkey. “As a big buyer, we believe we have a responsibility in the communities where we have a presence.”

As a big buyer, we believe we have a responsibility in the communities where we have a presence.

Oznur Ozelik, Sustainability Social Program Responsible, H&M Turkey.

Promoting the benefits of diversity

H&M Group aims to enable ethical recruitment opportunities for 2,000 refugees within its suppliers’ operations by 2025. During 2020, more than 400 refugees were employed through the efforts of the foreign workers programme in Turkey alone. They have work permits, are socially insured, work in a safe work environment and they are paid according to Turkish law.

Through the programme, H&M Turkey works with local stakeholders, including the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, International Labour Organization (ILO), United Work and Mudem, to integrate refugees into the labour market. A work mentorship programme helps refugees cope with the challenges that come with a new job, culture and language.

Bishir Khabbas, Sewing Operator, is one of the refugees who has gotten employment.

H&M Turkey works very closely with its suppliers and part of Oznur Ozcelik’s job is to promote the benefits of diversity and refugee recruitment and encourage suppliers to get on board with the programme. Suppliers are often concerned that hiring refugees will create extra work and some are unaware that hiring refugees is legally possible.

The programme connects suppliers with the relevant stakeholders who can help with each step in the process such as hiring laws, funding, work permits, training and other details. Most importantly, the suppliers are presented with candidates for each job.

Throughout her more than 12-year long career at H&M Group, Oznur Ozcelik has been to a lot of factories and interviewed plenty of workers, including refugees, while conducting sustainability audits. “What motivates me most is to be able to have even the slightest positive impact on peoples’ lives, she says. 

Suppliers say that our work has helped them improve and change their vision,” says Oznur OzcelikThey also see that the refugees they hire are motivated and work well and this shows in supplier productivity.

A rewarded initiative – work for women

H&M Turkey also focuses on the recruitment of refugee women as they tend to be a more vulnerable group due to a general lack of work experience and cultural reasons. A project with H&M Group supplier Ekpen Tekstil and ILO was initiated in 2020 to promote decent work opportunities for refugee women from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Ekpen Tekstil created a training programme for 10 women. At the end of the period, some of the women were recruited for the factory production line,” says Oznur Ozcelik, Sustainability Social Program Responsible in Turkey. In 2020, Ekpen Tekstil received an award from Sustainable Business Awards Turkey in the Diversity and Inclusion category for their work with the programme.

Putting a price on carbon

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5/11

//Putting a price on carbon will be a game changer for us//

The fashion industry is at a crossroads where companies have to start taking financial responsibility for their emissions. Despite the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, H&M Group advanced its efforts in 2020 to take responsibility for the true cost of the group’s climate impact – by aiming to put a price on emissions.

Kim Hellström, Strategy Lead, Climate and Water at H&M Group.

2020 was a difficult year, with the global pandemic causing disruptions for many companies including H&M Group. “Covid-19 was an eye-opener for us and we learned how to be flexible and react quicker – and we didn’t stand still regarding the climate”, says Kim Hellström, Strategy Lead, Climate and Water for H&M Group.

Among the climate activities in 2020 was a massive retrofitting to LED lighting in 281 stores in 20 countries to increase energy efficiency. There was also the scaling up of Maersk Eco Delivery, the shipping giant’s carbon-neutral biofuel made from waste cooking oil. The new oil, which enables companies to cut down on their carbon footprint in transportation, accounted for 20% of H&M Group’s total shipping volume for the year.

By using sustainable biofuel, H&M Group is seeking to reduce carbon footprint in transportation.

Translating emissions into a financial cost

Another important step in 2020 towards H&M Group’s 2040 goal of becoming climate positive, was the development of an internal carbon pricing model and tool.

Internal carbon pricing will help to quantify costs for the emissions from the different decisions taken by the group – for instance when designing, producing and selling a product. By directly connecting emissions to a price on carbon, product developers at H&M Group can make more informed decisions when choosing where to produce an item or what material to use.

Product developers at H&M Group will see the true cost of carbon emissions already in the design stage, thanks to a new internal tool.

We are really connecting the dots now. Translating emissions into a financial cost is a super efficient way to reduce emissions through practical actions.

Working with this tool will raise company-wide awareness of the real cost of carbon and lead to a reduced climate impact without affecting the final cost for customers.

“We are really connecting the dots now,” Kim Hellström says. “Carbon pricing will be a game changer for us, affecting how we work and helping us lower our emissions. Translating emissions into a financial cost is a super efficient way to reduce emissions through practical actions.”

During the year, a decision was also taken to form a green investment team, responsible for managing climate-related funds. The team will invest the funds in various climate initiatives and projects to reduce future CO2 emissions in the supply chain, Kim Hellström explains.

Part of the company is solely focused on making good investments where the ROI is CO2 reductions.

“This means that a part of the company is solely focused on making good investments where the ROI (Return On Investment) is CO2 reductions. We find out where we can get the biggest emission reductions and that is where we put our money.”

Kim Hellström believes the fashion industry is at a crossroads where companies have to start taking financial responsibility for their emissions or risk being left behind by customers.

“It’s a bumpy road ahead but we have started taking actions through carbon pricing and our green investment team. Companies that haven’t started their journey will have an even bumpier road ahead,” he says.

Protecting biodiversity

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Protecting biodiversity through responsible farming

An astonishing 75% of all land on earth has been significantly altered by human activities such as agriculture, which is a major cause of biodiversity loss. During 2020, H&M Group took important steps to reduce its own negative impact on biodiversity through, for example, helping farmers improve biodiversity by switching to responsible rattan and organic cotton.

Educating farmers about the benefits of organic cotton farming in India.

By the end of 2020, 100% of H&M Group’s cotton was either organic, recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way. This is thanks to a number of efforts in recent years, including a partnership with the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) to help farmers in India shift to growing organic cotton. Organic cotton is produced using ecological processes and without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or genetically modified seeds.

This helps maintain local biodiversity. Organic cotton farms also use much less water than conventional cotton farms as they mainly rely on rainwater, says Suhas Khandagale, responsible for H&M Group’s Global cotton production. “Overall, it’s a way of farming that focuses on preserving soil health and caring for the farmer’s family, community and planet,” he says.

Farmer Shersingh Bhilya is growing organic cotton in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India.

It’s a way of farming that focuses on preserving soil health and caring for the farmer’s family, community and planet.

Suhas Khandagale is responsible for H&M Group's Global cotton production.

Establish complete traceability

The principal programme with OCA, the Farmer Engagement and Development (FED) programme, is aimed at building sustainable and reliable organic cotton by demonstrating the business case for farmers to grow it. FED also improves transparency and risk management for brands and retailers through, for example, conducting random audits and quality checks. 

“With our 100% transparent supply chain we are able to establish complete traceability from farm to fashion, for all the products that are produced using the cotton from these farm projects,” says Suhas Khandagale.

By participating in projects with the Organic Cotton Accelerator and other organic cotton initiatives in India during the 2019-2020 crop season, H&M Group’s support resulted in 13,000 farmers involved in organic cotton projects. This is a dramatic increase from 1,300 farmers in 2017.

“All partners who manage these projects have continued to engage with us on capacity building and scaling up on volumes each year,” says Suhas Khandagale. “That demonstrates the commitment from everyone towards the future of the organic cotton sector.”

Rattan farming for future generations

Man-made cellulosic fibres, or MMC, are the third biggest materials sourced by H&M Group. Hence, it’s important that no ancient and endangered forests are put at risk in the name of fashion and design. Through a collaboration with WWF, H&M Group is encouraging farmers and suppliers to produce and market responsible rattan – the collective noun for roughly 600 species of climbing trees.

Belonging to the palm family, rattan is used to make furniture, handicrafts and other goods. Over the years, many communities have been converting their rattan fields into more lucrative crops like bananas or rubber or sold their fields for mining, putting biodiversity at risk.

Rattan that has been sustainably harvested in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.
The certified rattan is used to produce interior decorations for H&M Home.

In Indonesia however, the Katingan Rattan Farmers Association representing more than 200 rattan farmers, is practicing responsible rattan management in its local area in Central Kalimantan. This is an area that has been identified as a High Conservation Value forest and it’s a place where orangutans, birds and other wildlife flourish. The farmers participate in maintaining and preserving the forest. This in turn ensures the survival of rattan, which relies on forests for growth.

“Responsible rattan farming ensures that rattan is harvested in a sustainable manner and harvested legally,” says Anya Sapphira, Regional Sustainability Manager, H&M Group Production Office Indonesia. “It is also a way to safeguard the ecosystem processes, species and human livelihoods. By providing a source of income to rural people, it allows them to become stewards and guards of their forests and biodiversity.”

By providing a source of income to rural people, it allows them to become stewards and guards of their forests and biodiversity.

Anya Sapphira, Regional Sustainability Manager, H&M Group Production Office Indonesia.

Building a sustainable business case

The Katingan Rattan Farmers Association is among the first non-timber forest product groups to receive FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) forest management certification. A total of 690.58 hectares have been certified since 2018. “H&M Group joined forces with WWF at the beginning of 2019 to do what we are best at – building a sustainable business case,” says Heidi Paramita Madiadipura, H&M Home Production Manager.

“Our focus is to strengthen the material quality level to meet customer demand and create a sustainable value chain. Wwork with business partners or suppliers who share the same values and commitments to positive environmental and social impacts.” 

Helping farmers save water while increasing their income

A new innovation in recycling may help protect harvests. Non-profit H&M Foundation, its research partner HKRITA and one of India’s largest apparel manufacturer Shahi ran a pilot project in 2020 to test a super absorbent powder in cotton farming.

The results showed that the powder was able to keep the soil moist, reducing the need for irrigation and saving water for local communities. In addition, the quality of the cotton was improved with longer and stronger fibres and harvests increased by 20%. This implies that cotton farmers could ask a higher price for their cotton and thus increase their income. The pilot will scale up in 2021 with further trials on a larger area of land.

Resell, repair & rental

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7/11

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 CO2 emissions 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.

Sara Eriksson, Strategy Lead for Circular Business Development at H&M Group.

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.

Transparency in action

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8/11

//2020 was a huge milestone in our transparency work//

Transparency played a key role in driving H&M Group’s sustainability efforts forward during 2020. But what is transparency really about and what initiatives has the group been driving to push the boundaries? Giorgina Waltier, Transparency Strategy & Engagement Lead at H&M Group, shares her thoughts on customer empowerment and why exposing sustainability impacts on a pair of jeans can drive real change.

Giorgina Waltier, Transparency Strategy & Engagement Lead at H&M Group.

Hi Giorgina Waltier! Transparency has been a buzzword when it comes to sustainability for some time now, but what does it really mean?

“To me personally, transparency is about honesty and clarity. It means taking responsibility for our work and our impact on the planet and people. More specifically, for H&M Group, transparency means sharing accountable, accurate sustainability information relating to our products, supply chain, business practices and policies to customers and stakeholders.”

What could access to informative and transparent data result in?

“By sharing information about how a product has been produced – and what environmental and social impacts it has had – we believe we can empower customers to make more informed decisions when they want to make a purchase from any of our brands. According to new research, 55% of shoppers say sustainability is more important to them than value or quality – but how can customers identify sustainable products and trust that they are as sustainable as they claim to be? We believe that product transparency is the solution.”

55% of shoppers say sustainability is more important to them than value or quality – but how can customers identify sustainable products and trust that they are as sustainable as they claim to be?

What can transparent product information look like?

“Across all our brands we make sure that products that include more sustainable materials are clearly labelled on hangtags, so they are easily identifiable. We also make this information available online on the product description pages whenever possible.”

“But we want to push our product transparency much further by providing information about for example, the carbon, water and energy footprint of, say, a pair of jeans – or providing the data about the environmental impacts of the factory that has made those jeans. This is the kind of data that we are working to share with the customer on a product level, but we need to take this step by step, as connecting all the dots is incredibly complex.”

Product transparency – showing environmental impact for a pair of jeans on hm.com

Did H&M Group take any important steps during 2020?

“We were of course very happy and proud that our work with transparency got recognition, when we were ranked as number one in the Fashion Transparency Index 2020. But we still have a lot of work to do and our efforts to improve our level of transparency continue. The H&M brand was, for example, part of a product transparency pilot with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Higg Index last year that gave us really important insights about how we can share impact data on our products and how the customer reacts to this.”

“Many of our other brands also succeeded in taking transparency to the next level during 2020. COS conducted a blockchain traceability pilot on a selection of products and ARKET launched their Sustainability Fact Sheet which shares the details of all ARKET suppliers with the customer online.”

What were the other important milestones last year?

“Another huge 2020 milestone was the development of a denim collection that sought to share environmental impact data with the customer. The result of this work, the Lee x H&M Collection, was launched at the end of January 2021.”

“While working with this collection, sustainability representatives from the company like myself as well as our CEO Helena Helmersson, met virtually with fashion influencers to hear their thoughts on sustainability and hopes for the future. Their input on sustainable fashion was extremely valuable and really taught us a lot! This kind of interaction with our customers is also a way for us to be more transparent.”

Transparent talking: Giorgina Waltiers in a conversation with model Deba Hekmat. 13:47

You mentioned showing environmental impact data – tell us more!

“It was the first time that we applied a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to a collection and shared the findings with our customers on products. By running an LCA we were able to show the customer some of the potential environmental impact reductions that can be created by using more sustainable materials. These impacts included CO2 equivalent emissions, water use and energy use. Using and sharing LCA data in this way has enabled us to take our product transparency to a totally new level and we are currently exploring how we can apply similar data to more collections across our brands.”

Last but not least – what does the future hold?

“There are a lot of exciting new developments around the corner. As data processing solutions and tech improvements continue, transparency will take on a whole new life in the next few years. The fashion industry will probably move away from sharing information on static web pages, to fully digital wardrobes, where transparency becomes part of your everyday interaction with both the clothes in your closet and the clothes you are looking to buy, sell, share, swap or recycle. The future of transparency is very exciting!”

Downsizing plastic

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9/11

Downsizing plastic with the help of smart design

Exploring new ways to maximise resources and minimise waste is crucial on the journey to becoming a circular business. In 2020, H&M Group took a big leap, by shifting from plastic to paper with a new multi-brand packaging concept for online orders.

Packaging is important to protect products and ensure they arrive in good shape to stores and customers. But packaging also uses valuable resources and creates a lot of waste.

Towards the end of 2020, H&M Group started to send online orders using a new packaging concept based on a minimalistic design solution made of certified paper. The plan is for all brands, in all markets, to use the packaging by 2022.

“The new packaging concept was a milestone during 2020, taking us closer to meeting our packaging goals,” says Ulrika Nordvall Bardh, Strategy Lead Circular Economy at H&M Group.

In 2020, H&M Group reduced its packaging by 14%, including 24% less plastic packaging.

The paper packaging is recyclable and Ulrika Nordvall Bardh points out that it meets the same safety requirements as the previous packaging, made of plastic.

The brown paper bags and boxes might not look like much at first glance, but the clever design makes it very easy to add character to the packaging. The adhesive label that closes the bag can be customised by each H&M Group brand, as well as adapted to a certain season or printed with a specific message.

Going for fewer plastics

As a member and signatory of the initiatives The New Plastics Economy, Global Commitment and The Fashion Pact, H&M Group is determined to address plastic pollution.

The ambition is to phase out unnecessary, problematic and single-use plastic packaging. H&M Group’s new packaging concept however still contains an inner bag mainly made of post-consumer recycled plastics, in the majority of its shipments. This is due to the fact that inner plastic bags still are commonly used on industry level through the long logistics supply chain, for example, for safety and hygiene reasons. Efforts are ongoing within the group to find an alternative solution as soon as possible.

It’s no secret that plastics have an extremely negative impact. We need to leave behind today’s linear business model and move towards a circular economy.

Ulrika Nordvall Bardh, Strategy Lead Circular Economy at H&M Group.

“It’s no secret that plastics have an extremely negative impact on the environment. That’s why we need to leave behind today’s linear business model and move towards a circular economy for plastics, in which plastic never becomes waste,” says Ulrika Nordvall Bardh. “Addressing our packaging solutions and phasing out plastic where it’s possible is a very important step in the right direction.”

And the numbers speak for themselves. With the new packaging system in place, 100,278 kg of plastic was eliminated during 2020. During 2021, that number is estimated to skyrocket to 1,529,097 kg. The share of paper bags will then account for 58% of the total bags used.

H&M Group’s packaging goals:

  • Reduce packaging across our value chain by 25% by 2025 (2018 baseline).
  • Design all packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
  • Make all packaging from recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030, with a preference for recycled materials.
  • Reuse or recycle all packaging waste from our own sites by 2025.
Built with circularity

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10/11

Built with circularity – from storefronts to office floors

For H&M Group, a circular mindset goes beyond embracing new ways of designing products and recycling textiles. It also includes looking at how stores and offices can be constructed and furnished in a more sustainable way – for example by using textile dust, waste and old yoghurt pots.

See how sustainable spaces are being created with the help from dust and microorganisms. 01:00

H&M Group has around 5,000 stores as well as offices and distributions centres worldwide. Having sustainability in mind when designing, planning and constructing these environments can obviously have a significant impact.

H&M Group’s Circular Innovation Lab is dedicated to investigating new, innovative and more sustainable materials and processes that can reduce the group’s carbon footprint. Finding new materials for the group’s built environments, with the potential to be upscaled, is a continuous challenge. During 2020 the lab worked on many groundbreaking projects. One of these was basically born out of waste from old textiles.

H&M Group’s partner Really creates interior panels made from textile fibres and dust.
These panels have been used as interiors in H&M stores as well as in this pop-up concept for COS.

The Danish startup Really has invented a method to upcycle end-of-life textiles into premium quality, engineered textile boards. In a pilot collaboration, the Circular Innovation Lab and Really developed interior panels made of dust coming from a recycling process for end-of-life textiles as a feedstock. The interior panels from Really have been used as interiors in H&M stores as well as in a pop-up concept for COS – saving 3,198 kilograms of fabric waste.

Until now, we have only been able to reduce emissions caused by these materials by using less of them. That is simply not enough.

Martin Ekenbark, Project Manager at H&M Group's Circular Innovation Lab.

Exploring lab-grown concrete

Among the other exciting projects taking place is the testing of biocement, a material that can actually grow with the help of microorganisms. BioMason is an American startup that challenges conventional concrete with biocement made of waste aggregate and microorganisms mixed with water.

The innovation can reduce a crucial amount of the carbon footprint, something which raised the Circular Innovation Lab’s interest. Tiles and concrete pose major challenges from a sustainability aspect, since they have a high climate impact and can’t be recycled.

A promising pilot has begun to test biocement as a floor in one of the H&M offices in Sweden. Finding new alternatives to tiles and concrete, as well as processes for manufacturing these materials in more sustainable ways, could have a major positive impact. “Until now, we have only been able to reduce emissions caused by these materials by using less of them. That is simply not enough,” says Martin Ekenbark, Project Manager at H&M Group’s Circular Innovation Lab.

The cutting-edge innovation Biocement grows in a lab and has very little impact on the environment.

Shining a light on optimising resources

Construction and demolition waste accounts for approximately 25–30% of all waste generated in the European Union. This waste consists of materials such as concrete, wood, metals, glass and plastic – many of which can be recycled and reused.

During 2020, H&M Group created a strategy for reducing its carbon footprint caused by built spaces, made in in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “Becoming a fully circular business needs to be applied throughout the entire value chain. An important part has been to not only address our core business, but also our built environments,” says Ulrika Nordvall Bardh, Strategy Lead Circular Economy at H&M Group.

Ulrika Nordvall Bardh, Strategy Lead Circular Economy at H&M Group.
& Other Stories prolonged the life of their mannequins to save resources and new material.

“By using a circular mindset, we can save a lot of resources,” says Ulrika Nordvall Bardh, pointing out that sustainability efforts go hand in hand with profitability.

The new strategy for built environments shines a light on optimising resources used in the group’s stores and offices, by reusing interior and construction materials to cut waste.

“With the help from our creative sales teams, many brands have contributed to a circular mindset in stores during 2020. For example, & Other Stories has prolonged the life of its mannequins by using environmentally friendly water-based colours to change the appearance of the mannequins, instead of ordering new ones. Another inspiring example is Monki, which has used recycled yoghurt pots in their window interiors.”

H&M Group’s circular built environment goals:

  • Reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions across our value chain by 50% by 2030
  • Design all new products for stores, offices and distribution centres to be reusable, repairable or recyclable from 2021 
  • Use only recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030, with preference for post-recycled materials 
  • Reuse, repair or recycle all products and materials by 2030, with preference for reuse 
Saving precious water

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11/11

Saving water to protect every precious drop

Water is a scarce resource in many parts of the world and one of the fashion industry’s biggest environmental challenges. Conserving, reusing and recycling water is an ongoing effort for H&M Group and during this past year 18,219,486 m3 wastewater was recycled – the equivalent of 7,288 Olympic swimming pools. A number of local initiatives in Asia had a positive impact.

In this treatment plant at one of H&M Group’s supplier’s in India, wastewater is recycled back into production again.

It’s no secret that the textile industry is water intensive. Cultivating cotton, dyeing textiles, garment finishing as well as customer usage all require a great deal of water. An astounding 7,000 litres of water go into making a pair of jeans – enough drinking water to meet one person’s needs for seven years.

Managing water in a more responsible way is therefore at the top of H&M Group’s priority list, as it works towards becoming fully circular and renewable. H&M Group’s Water Roadmap 2018–22 includes a number of targets, for example having 15% recycled water back in the process. This goal was met already in 2020. Additionally, all business partners must comply with H&M Group’s Sustainability Commitment and water management requirements.

Harvesting and recycling rainwater can make a big impact.

Based in Bangladesh, Sharif Hoque, Water Sustainability Responsible at H&M Group, works closely with partners and suppliers to get a deeper understanding of the water needs in the region.

“Water is a local issue unlike climate,” he says. “This means the challenge and risk that we have in a specific river basin or catchment is unique and the solutions also need to be derived from there. We bring the technical knowledge and the business incentive to support our business partners to become more sustainable.”

Sharif Hoque, Water Sustainability Responsible at H&M Group.

An astounding 7,000 litres of water go into making a pair of jeans – enough drinking water to meet one person’s needs for seven years.

Together with external partners such as WWF, Sweden Textile Water Initiative (STWI) and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), a number of initiatives to reduce water consumption are underway in H&M Group’s most important production markets: Bangladesh, India and Indonesia. Together, these three markets cover almost 50% of the group’s total production.

Stuart Orr, Global Freshwater Lead, WWF : “The textile industry has an important role to play in the transition to a healthier planet where we combat biodiversity loss and climate crisis, and secure clean water for all. H&M Group has the size and is willing to take responsibility for the whole chain, not just their own footprint. Following a partnership dating back to 2011, H&M Group and WWF just signed a new five year partnership agreement with the ambition to make a change for the whole industry.”

This denim washing machine consumes substantially less water compared to conventional washing machines.
At the Paradise Washing Plant facility in Bangladesh, the inhouse lab is collecting the wastewater discharge sample for quality testing.

The textile industry is Bangladesh’s largest export earner and crucial for the country’s economy. At the same time, Bangladesh’s groundwater is depleting and water efficiency and recycling efforts are urgently needed.

In 2019, H&M Bangladesh initiated a project with one of its suppliers, the Paradise Washing Plant of Ananta Group, to recycle wastewater in the denim washing process. In 2020, the washing plant was able to recycle 25% of its total production water consumed during the year.

Following the success of the project, H&M Bangladesh has taken its water recycling efforts further. Today, 19 denim and twill washing units in Bangladesh are recycling their wastewater and reducing their freshwater consumption.

Water is a local issue unlike climate. We bring the technical knowledge and the business incentive to support our business partners to become more sustainable.

India also faces severe water shortages, with just 4% of the world’s freshwater resources and a population of over 1.3 billion people. In collaboration with STWI, H&M India is helping suppliers like Shahi Exports, one of India’s largest apparel manufacturers, implement rainwater harvesting and other water-saving systems.

This supplier has also upgraded its effluent treatment system to allow virtually all of its production wastewater to be recycled. “There is no discharge of any wastewater,” says Sharif Hoque. “100% recycled water is used in washing and for the boiler so there is low dependency on external water sources and groundwater.”

Between 2018 and 2020, Shahi Exports managed to reduce its water consumption per piece of clothing by 38%. “We are on a journey to find solutions and want to engage more with our business partners and stakeholders. Ultimately, we want to see the whole industry participating in these efforts.” continues Sharif Hoque.

Indonesia is another major textile producer and while the country has an abundance of fresh water, it is not evenly distributed throughout the country. Textile mill PT. Dewasutratex, one of H&M Indonesia’s business partners, has begun installing rainwater harvesting systems. Between 2017-2020, two PT. Dewasutratex facilities in Bandung collected over 777,317 m3 of rainwater. That’s enough water to cover the needs of 590 Indonesians for a full year.

2020 in Numbers

No.1

in Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index.

0
%

of materials from recycled or more sustainable sources.

0
%

reduction in packaging.

0
%
of our cotton is organic, recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way
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