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H&M Sustainability Report shows strong progress in 2019

by Dheeraj Tagra

H&M has reached 97 per cent recycled or other sustainability sourced cotton and will not source conventional cotton for collections from 2020 onwards.

Leading fashion retailer H&M has come up with its latest sustainability report and showed how aggressively it is moving forward in sustainable activities. The company also showed its firm vision and insisted that in this challenging time of COVID-19, sustainability will play an even more crucial role. It is good to see that the retailer is not leaving any stone unturned to achieve its sustainability target and has a focus on all aspects.

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The report highlights that H&M has reached 97 per cent recycled or other sustainably-sourced cotton and will not source conventional cotton for collections from 2020 onwards. 57 per cent of its materials will be either recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way, thereby taking steps towards its 100 per cent goal for 2030.

Taking pride in all the progress achieved in 2019 and looking ahead, Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M Group, says, “The year 2020 has started with a challenge we never saw before with the spread of COVID-19, affecting the whole world, companies and societies. I am confident that the long-term vision we always had and will continue having, on sustainability, will play an even more crucial role in facing these challenges. It will be more important than ever to continue our journey towards a circular economy and sustainable consumption while creating prosperity through job opportunities.”

The Group is launching its business-to-business service Treadler, which offers textile and apparel retailers access to H&M Group’s supply chain, enabling other companies to accelerate sustainable social and environmental change through their own value chains more quickly.

In 2019, the company explored new circular business models and launched several circular initiatives involving on-demand, customisation, repair, rental, renewal, re-commerce options and reusable packaging.

Its Circular Innovation Lab piloted new sustainable materials such as the cellulosic fibre made by Infinited Fiber Company from recycled cotton textiles, and Re:newcell’s ground-breaking and first-time-ever chemically recycled material Circulose, launching the first product using this breakthrough technology in early 2020.

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100 per cent of its textile and leather supply chain, with over 600 suppliers, is now enrolled in the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) programme and 0.9 million supply chain workers benefit from improved wage management systems, and more than 1.1 million have been reached by industrial relations and workplace dialogue programmes.

The fashion retailer collected 29,005 tonnes of garments – an increase of 40 per cent from 2018, reaching its goal of 25,000 tonnes annually a year early.

To take a country-by-country approach to target and reducing risks of forced labour for migrant workers, the Group launched a new partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

H&M’s sustainable initiative across the globe is focusing more on the apparel manufacturing countries from where it sources majorly. Apart from China, Bangladesh and India are the important partners of the Group. It is supporting not only India’s apparel suppliers, but is also working with educational institutes and focusing on its retail employees in an impressive way. It is supporting suppliers to install rooftop solar panels. In 2019, 16 facilities in India become “Zero Liquid Discharge” and are now out of scope. 31 new units were added in 2019, 18 of which have a yellow grade ETP. These units have two years to achieve a green grade.

Its work with Amsterdam Coalition (AMCO) on responsible sourcing from India continued. AMCO officially launched an industry platform for responsible business conduct with Indian textile businesses and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD’s) Responsible Business Conduct unit. The next step is for the OECD to conduct a baseline assessment in consultation with Indian business, government and workers.

The retailer also set up a new national monitoring committee (NMCs) covering Bangalore and New Delhi. The NMCs oversee the implementation of the Global Framework Agreement (GFA) and local collaboration to support good industrial relations. Its GFA with trade unions IndustriALL and IF Metall focuses on the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining across many production markets. Its purpose is to strengthen industrial relations and enable peaceful conflict resolution in its global supply chain.

H&M’s ARKET brand and H&M Home launched a pilot of We Care, a concept offering products made by social entrepreneurs that provide job opportunities for disadvantaged groups. The pilot project contributed to 558 jobs for social entrepreneurs in Africa and India.

The company’s women employees (in retail segment), working till 8 pm or later and those starting at 6 am, are provided with safe transportation to and from work with a security guard. One of the transportation companies it engages in this service employs female drivers for the transportation of women. It also works with vocational schools and local organisations to recruit colleagues with fewer socio-economic opportunities and with special abilities. Currently, an estimated 5 per cent of its employees in India are recruited through these partnerships.

Its suppliers in Bangladesh have remediated 98 per cent of fire and building safety issues as defined by the Bangladesh Accord, and any new supplier will not be approved unless they fulfil these requirements.

The Group also joined a collaboration of international brands participating in a programme to scale digital wage payment, led by the Better Than Cash Alliance and BSR. Increasing the availability of digital rather than cash-based systems can improve access to banking services and enhance financial independence, particularly for women. The Group aims to make digital payments available at all its manufacturing supplier units in Bangladesh by the end of 2020.

It also initiated the Women Worker Progression Programme by collaborating with the IFC and Better Work Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) initiative. 13 factories were enrolled in the programme, which aims to create career progression opportunities for female sewing workers — enabling them to take supervisory roles following a tailored training programme.

H&M also supported WRG2030 to conduct a high-level assessment of groundwater sustainability in the Greater Dhaka Area (GDA). The findings will help to ensure impactful decisions for long-term planning of groundwater management in the basin and should aid government development of relevant water conservation and management policies.

It is also supporting initiatives like the Bangladesh Government’s Water Valuation Study that seeks to develop a realistic operational price for water, so that its true value can be factored into public and private sector plans and projects.

In collaboration with Action, Collaboration, Transformation (ACT), H&M engages in public advocacy for legal frameworks that enable and facilitate collective bargaining agreements at the industry level in Bangladesh, Vietnam and three other countries.

Average monthly wages (excluding overtime) at H&M Group factories versus applicable minimum wages


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