DATA

ABOUT THE BRAND

H&M is a Swedish multinational clothing-retailer, known for producing low price, high fashion clothing for men, women, teenagers and children. The brand’s clothing follows current fashion trends, is designed and manufactured quickly, is affordable, and is aimed at mainstream consumers. The H&M philosophy is to make fashion affordable for everyone.

HIGHLIGHTS

THE PROS

🔍 H&M shares a list of 98.5% of first tier suppliers names and addresses and 56% of its second tier suppliers (fabric and yarn) names and addresses. Visitors to the brand’s website can access this information through an interactive map which H&M aims to update every 3 months.

💪🏼 Since 2015, H&M has been running a new supplier assessment program called SIPP (Sustainable Impact Partnership Programme). SIPP is based on the Higg Index  and suppliers self report, with the brand validating the results and working with suppliers to set improvement targets.

♻️ The brands goal is to use 100% recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030 and to take a circular approach to how products are made and used. The strategy is being formed in dialogue with a number of partners including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Cradle to Cradle Institute. In 2016, 26% of the brands materials met this criteria.

💡 The Global Change Award is an annual innovation competition funded by the H&M Foundation. Innovations from the five 2017 winners which will receive funding include Grape leather, Manure couture, Denim-dyed denim, Solar textiles and Content thread.

THE CONS

💪🏼 The October 2016 report, When “best” is far from good enough produced by the Cambodian NGO Center for Alliance of Labor & Human Rights (CENTRAL) and Future In Our Hands, evaluated three of H&M’s “platinum” suppliers and one “gold” supplier. The report found that despite the brand’s Fair Wage Method project being initiated in 2013, the platinum suppliers were below the industry median ($178/month) in terms of wages and that a living wage was not being ensured at all four suppliers, based on evidence that suppliers had suffered fluctuating wages caused by bad planning of orders and unstable purchasing practices.

💪🏼 The H&M Group has a whistleblower policy in place for its direct employees but no such policy is publicly available for the workers in its supply chain. Grievances raised by workers’ representatives during 2015 concerned issues related to freedom of association and discriminatory practices.

💪🏼 In February 2016, Quartz reported that a fire had occurred at a Bangladesh factory producing goods for H&M, which injured 4. The factory was inspected in May 2014 and found to be lacking adequate fire doors, sprinklers, fire alarms, and fire hoses, among other deficiencies. It was reported that had the fire occurred 60 minutes later 6000 workers would have been inside.

♻️ In April 2016, the Guardian reported issues with H&M’s Recycling Week. Technical problems with commercial fibre recycling mean that only a small percentage of recycled yarn is used in new garments. Using publicly available figures and average clothing weights, it appears it would take 12 years for H&M to use up the 1,000 tons of fashion waste it aimed to collect during the week. The Guardian also reported that if 1,000 tons is recycled, that roughly equates to the same amount of clothes a brand of H&M’s size pumps out into the world in 48 hours. The article went on to criticize the vouchers on offer to customers who recycle their clothing as they often fuel more purchasing.

/ The H&M group works with 1,826 first tier factories that employ 1.6 million people, of whom 65% are women.

/ Brands under the H&M Group are H&M, Cos, & Other Stories, Cheap Monday, Monki and Weekday.

/ The H&M group launched a new label, Arket, in March 2017, aimed at providing a range of essentials for men, women and children, and a small assortment for the home. The overall direction is simple, timeless and functional designs.

In 2016, the H&M Group made approximately SEK223 billion (approx. US$24.8 billion) in sales, up from SEK210 billion in 2015.

/ In 2016, H&M brand has 3,962 stores in 64 markets and e-commerce in 35 markets, up from  3,610 in 2015.

 

 

/ H&M shares a list of 98.5% of first tier suppliers names and addresses and 56% of its second tier suppliers (fabric and yarn) names and addresses through an interactive map which the brand aims to update every 3 months. The brand lists each supplier’s rating – platinum, gold, silver and other – stating that suppliers graded with platinum or gold are its preferred suppliers producing around 60% of its products.

/ H&M Group aims to have full traceability of its cotton by 2020.

/ In 2016, H&M collaborated with Control Union on a pilot traceability system for organic cotton and viscose, developing a web-based system to record shipments and provide transaction records and a QR code for each one. The pilot was considered a success and H&M plans to scale up the system to cover the entire viscose supply chain over the next few years.

H&M states it cannot trace its entire supply chain. 

A February 2016 Business & Human rights Resource Centre (BHRC) report outlined H&M’s response to child labour being identified in one of its factories in Turkey. The brand terminated the business relationship immediately and worked with its NGO partner, CYDD (Association for the Support of Contemporary Living), to make an action plan identifying the most suitable education option for the child.

H&M discloses the 2015 compliance level of all audited first tier factories by region (it is unclear what % of first tier factories were audited). Results included:

  • Is there a trade union represented in the factory? EMEA scored 17%, Far East scored 60%, South Asia scored 6%
  • Is the factory covered by a collective agreement? EMEA scored 33%, Far East scored 75%, South Asia scored 3%.
  • Are monthly overtime hours within legal limits? EMEA scored 56%, Far East scored 10%, South Asia scored 17%.
  • Are the chemical containers properly labelled? EMEA scored 78%, Far East scored 51%, South Asia scored 55%.
  • Have the workers who regularly handle chemicals been trained in safe chemical handling? EMEA scored 70%, Far East scored 66%, South Asia scored 53%.

/ In 2016, H&M replaced its Code of Conduct with its Sustainability Commitment which outlines fundamental and aspirational requirements for its suppliers to comply with. Fundamental requirements include:

  • All workers have the right to join or form a trade union and bargain collectively

In its Sustainability Commitment, H&M states that “a fair living wage should always be enough to meet the basic needs of employees and their families, and provide some discretionary income.” H&M reports that living wages are assessed in the brand’s sustainability index and those suppliers achieving this will be rewarded with more business.

H&M has developed a fair living wage strategy which outlines the stakeholders involved in bringing systemic change in this area, including other brands using the same suppliers, government, factory owners and workers. In 2016, H&M reported that 140 manufacturing factories had implemented the Fair Wage Method, representing 29% of its production volume and around 250,000 workers. The brands overall goal is that by 2018, suppliers of 50% of the H&M group’s production volume will have improved wage management systems and democratically-elected worker representation. It is unclear if this has led to improved wages at these factories.

/ The H&M Group has a whistleblower policy in place for its direct employees but no such policy is publicly available for the workers in its supply chain. Grievances raised by workers’ representatives during 2015 concerned issues related to freedom of association and discriminatory practices.

/ H&M aims to ensure democratically-elected worker representation at suppliers producing 50% of H&M group’s product volume by 2018. In 2016, 290 factories received workplace dialogue training, representing 42% of total product volume, and more than 370,000 factory workers are currently directly covered by democratically elected worker representation through the brands programs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia and India.

/ In 2015, H&M Group began using its Sustainable Impact Partnership Programme, called SIPP, which helps it monitor and measure suppliers’ compliance against implementation of fundamental and aspirational levels of its Sustainability Commitment. SIPP is closely linked with SAC’s Higg facility modules. Following an initial assessment, suppliers set their own goals and self-report annual results to H&M. A key element of the SIPP method is that all brands can use the results of the SIPP, meaning that suppliers only have to complete one assessment, rather than multiple brand-specific assessments. 

  • As of May 2016, H&M’s monitoring programme (SIPP) covered 100% of first tier suppliers and those second tier suppliers (fabric and yarn suppliers) producing about 60% of the production volume for the H&M group.

/ In January 2017, SOMO published the report “Branded Childhood: How garment brands contribute to low wages, long working hours, school dropout and child labour in Bangladesh“, where 75 adult workers were interviewed at 14 factory units at 10 different garment companies in Dhaka, Bangladesh, supplying several multinational companies including H&M. The report noted that:

  • The majority of interviewed workers said their basic wage was insufficient to meet their families’ basic needs and that they therefore needed to work overtime hours.
  • Low wages and long working hours have been found to play a key role in parents’ decisions to take their children out of school. Almost all families had multiple income earners.

From 2016, H&M aims to move towards a 100% circular business model. The H&M brands goal is to use 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030. In 2016, 26% of its materials met this criteria. The brand requires its sustainably sourced materials to be verified by a third party (e.g. through a Life Cycle Assessment report, HIGG MSI Tool, or MADE-BY fibre benchmark).

H&M aims to only use cotton from sustainable sources by 2020. In 2016, H&M’s use of sustainable cotton was 43% of its overall cotton use (2015: 34%) made up of certified organic cotton, Better Cotton or recycled cotton.

The brand aims to use 100% Responsible Wool Standard certified wool by 2022. In 2016, approximately 25% of H&M second tier spinners completed the Content Claim Standard (CCS) used to verify wool through the entire supply chain for RWS.

In 2016, H&M used recycled polyester equivalent to more than 180 million PET bottles (2015: 90 million) making it the second largest user globally.

H&M launched its 2016 Conscious Exclusive Collection in March 2016. H&M’s 2017 Conscious Exclusive collection features a dress made from Bionic®, a recycled polyester made from plastic shoreline waste. The collection also includes items made from lyocell, organic silk, recycled polyester, organic cotton, organic linen and Tencel.

H&M has been partnering with WWF since 2011 on water stewardship and in 2016, renewed this for a further 5 years, working with WWF to develop its 2040 Climate Positive Strategy and the goals to achieve it.

H&M has a ban on the use of chrome 6 for all its production, including leather. The brand admits that some of the tanning is performed further down the production chain where it does not perform controls, so its long-term strategy is to aim for a complete phase-out of chrome tanning.

 

The H&M Groups overall company vision set in 2016 has three ambitions:

  • 100% Leading the Change to promote and scale innovation
  • 100% Circular and Renewable
  • 100% Fair and Equal – Fair jobs for all

The brand states that 100% is not an exact goal, but demonstrates the scale of its ambition and its commitment to change.

H&M reports that its three major focus areas for its Sustainability Commitment are:

  • Healthy workplaces
  • Healthy ecosystems
  • Animal welfare

/ H&M states that a fair living wage should be enabled through the brand’s purchasing practices and based on a skilled workforce with wage reviews on an annual basis. The brand aims to ensure improved wage management systems supporting fair living wages at business partners producing 50% of H&M group’s product volume are in place by 2018.

In May 2017, Edie reported that H&M was the first international fashion retailer to sign up to The Climate Group’s EP100 campaign, pledging to double its energy productivity within the next 13 years, making the commitment to double the economic output from every unit of energy consumed.

/ H&M aims to have a climate positive supply chain by 2040, meaning they are committed to reducing more greenhouse gases than they are responsible for, a target set in consultation with WWF.

/ The H&M Foundation is funded by the Stefan Persson family, who are the founders and main owners of H&M. Since 2013, the family has donated SEK 1.1 billion (approximately US$124 million). The Foundation reports that it works with 26 partners globally, and has impacted the lives of 740,000 people worldwide through its initiatives, working across four focus areas: Education, Water, Equality and Planet.

/ 50% of the proceeds from H&M’s garment collection initiative are donated to the H&M Foundation. The brand reports that, in 2016, this amounted to €780,000 (approx. US$850,000). This money is invested in The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) and social projects.

/ Globally, H&M and the H&M Foundation have set a goal to provide at least 500,000 people with access to safe water by 2016. Together with partners such as WaterAid, H&M reached this goal a year earlier than planned and has provided more than 530,000 people in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Ethiopia with clean water since 2002.

/ The H&M Foundation partnered with UNICEF to invest in children’s early education and development. This program aims to reach 73,600 children who will benefit from early childhood development programs by 2017. Since 2014, more than 45,000 children have benefitted from the H&M Foundation’s funded activities. H&M also aims to contribute to the first-ever Global Report on Early Childhood Development highlighting key early development indicators to be released before 2017 to help shift global perceptions of the importance of early childhood development.

/ For each kilogram of clothes that H&M collects through its garment collection initiative, 0,02 Euro is donated to a local charity organization chosen by H&M. The brand shares the names of its charity partners that in each of the countries where it operates, how much money has been raised and how many kilos of clothing has been collected.

/ In 2016, the brand’s CEO, Karl-Johan Persson, earned an estimated SEK 13.4 million (approximately US$ 1.5 million).

/ Forbes reported that the company intends to increase the number of its stores annually by 10%, averaging one store-opening each day, primarily focusing on China and new markets like India and South Africa.

/ In February 2015, Ecouterre reported that in a press release to the Guardian (page no longer available), H&M’s CEO encouraged people to buy more otherwise there would be a social catastrophe. He said “But if we were to decrease 10 to 20 percent of everything we don’t need, the result on the social and economic side would be catastrophic, including a lot of lost jobs and poverty.”

The brand has been criticized for running its annual World Recycling week, which it launched in 2013, in the same week as Fashion Revolution Week. Ecocult reported Hendrik Lampa, H&M Development Sustainability Manager, “it’s unfortunate that we were doing it at the same time, that was not our intention.”

/ In June 2016, Withers and Rogers reported that The Hague Court of Appeal had found H&M liable for infringement of G-Star Raw’s trademarks in use of the word RAW.

H&M aims to move towards a 100% circular business model. The brand states that it wants to use 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 and to take a circular approach to how products are made and used. The strategy is being formed in dialogue with a number of partners including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. By 2016, 26% of its materials met this criteria.

In September 2016, H&M announced that The H&M Foundation had entered into a 4 year partnership with The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) to develop technologies to recycle blend textiles into new fabrics and yarns.

In April 2017, Refinery29 reported that the brand, through its Global Change Award from the H&M Foundation, awarded grants to five technologies to be developed:

  • Grape leather, derived from waste materials of wine production
  • Nylon, manufactured using only water, plant waste and solar energy
  • Content Thread, in which fibres of a garment would be encoded with the garment’s supply chain information
  • Denim-Dyed Denim, where old jeans could be used to dye new jeans
  • Fabric made from cellulose in cow dung.

In 2016, 71% of the brands stores had recycling systems in place, and the brand collected 15,888 tonnes of clothing – a 29% increase on 2015.

In April 2016, the Guardian reported issues with H&M’s Recycling Week. Technical problems with commercial fibre recycling mean that only a small percentage of recycled yarn is used in new garments. Using publicly available figures and average clothing weights, it appears it would take 12 years for H&M to use up the 1,000 tons of fashion waste it aimed to collect during the week. The Guardian also reported that if 1,000 tons is recycled, that roughly equates to the same amount of clothes a brand of H&M’s size pumps out into the world in 48 hours. The article went on to criticise the vouchers on offer to customers who recycle their clothing as they often fuel more purchasing.

 

VOICES

JANET MENSINK | SOLIDARIDAD

Solidaridad is proud of its strategic partnership with H&M. Being a game changer in the sector; the collaboration between the two organisations is really effective. We realize the journey towards sustainability is a long journey, but so far what we’ve seen is that H&M is not afraid to take first bold steps. This has resulted in successful programs, such as the cleaner production program in Bangladesh with proven benefits for the local environment and communities. Also in exploring options in Ethiopia, we find in H&M a partner that has ambitious sustainability targets, but a humble and inclusive approach towards local stakeholders.”


LINDA GREER quoted by MARC BAIN | QUARTZ

“Fundamentally, there is a disconnect between the idea that you are selling a tremendous amount of clothing in fast fashion and that you are trying to be a sustainable company…” – 04/15/2015

 


KRISTEN BRODDE quoted by MARC BAIN | QUARTZ

H&M’s Recycling Week is in reality a week of illusions since only one percent of collected clothing can be used as recycled fibers. But this is not told to the customers.” – 04/16/2016

 


TreehuggerKATHERINE MARTINKO | TREEHUGGER

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: fast fashion can never be sustainable, no matter what companies say. I’m suspicious of Persson’s claim that this is about the poor factory workers. More likely his capitalistic call to keep shopping has more to do with the 400 new H&M stores slated for opening.” – 02/17/2015

“I am really proud of what H&M has achieved and the positive impact we are making. We are leading the way today within several sustainability areas and I want us to continue to raise the bar. This is why I am so happy to see that sustainability is on the minds of so many people at H&M – every day and in all departments. When I hear colleagues discussing sustainability over coffee, I honestly feel we have come a long way. But it is a very complex issue and we are certainly not at the end yet – there is more to do, for us and the entire industry.” – Interview with Karl-John Persson, CEO of H&M

“Consumption as well as trade between countries and production in developing countries is necessary to create jobs and lift nations and people out of poverty. H&M is indirectly creating employment for over one million people, not least women, in the countries that manufacture our products.” – unnamed H&M spokesperson as quoted by Marc Bain for Quartz04/16/2015