Fashion can be sustainable too.


One company that I enjoy shopping at for all different types of clothing is H&M. It is an affordable yet fashionable store with lots of great deals. I have continually shopped there over the years and been satisfied with my purchases. Since H&M is such a large chain, they are very accessible to where I live and I have always been happy with their service.

Image of H&M locations worldwide.

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One thing that I never really thought about when shopping there was how sustainable they were as a company. Nothing of the sort is marketed in the stores or emails/pamphlets I receive in the mail.

However, I was very pleased when I did a little bit more research. I found that on their home page there was a tab devoted just to sustainability. Not to mention, this was one of only four tabs, indicating that they clearly had enough to say about it. After exploring their sustainability tab, one of the parts that stood out to me the most was their commitments that they promise to their stakeholders. They did a very impressive job of outlining seven important commitments that they ensure, and stating them very clearly with hyperlinks to learn more about each commitment if the user is interested. I think this is a great way to outline a sustainable approach to business as the commitments range from environmental commitments, to recycling efforts, even to providing quality fashionable items. I think it was smart to highlight that their first commitment is to “provide fashion for conscious consumers”. This emphasizes that clearly they are focused on the industry that they are competing in and will always do their best to supply their consumers with the best possible products. They claim that they are always looking for new materials and better ways of making what they sell.

It is also reassuring to hear that they are in this for the long run. On many of their commitments, they provide facts about what they are doing well, and a goal of where they plan to be by 2020. I was so surprised to see how developed their sustainability plan was. They refer to it as the H&M Conscious. They highlight their mission with this campaign:

“Looking good should do good too. That’s what H&M Conscious is all about – it’s our promise to bring you more fashion choices that are good for people, the planet and your wallet.” 

I thought that this statement was a great summary of what sustainability should look like across all industries. H&M also features all of their sustainability reports on their website dating back to 2010. I think this is a great way to show transparency in a company. In addition to the annual sustainability reports, they have reports called the Conscious Actions Highlights from each year. In this, they provide an article of clothing per each of their seven commitments. They dissect the article of clothing by providing many statistics on where it was made, the factories it was made in, the materials used, the pricing, etc.

As a loyal H&M customer, I had no idea how transparent they were. I do not think that they receive enough credit for their amazing efforts. I think that they could advertise and market what they do in their stores. This would educate customers, and encourage them to come back as they are comforted by the sustainable practices they are learning about. I think that this would also create a positive conversation amongst their customers, and potentially draw in new ones simply because they are so sustainable and many companies in the fashion industry are not advertising their positive actions. Are there better ways to spread the word about the great things that H&M does?

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3 responses to “Fashion can be sustainable too.

  1. I’m a big fan of H&M apparel as well, and I think it’s great to know that they have such an extensive plan for sustainability. However, I almost fell into the same trap when I researched my brand, American Eagle. Looking at only their website is almost definitely going to give you a biased perspective of their business, even if they claim to be transparent. Out of curiosity, I did a quick Google search for “H&M scandal” and got several results, including several instances of poor labor conditions in their supply chain. For example, a Swedish television “Kalla Fakta” developed an entire documentary in 2012 (http://www.labourbehindthelabel.org/jobs/item/1097-hm-under-fire-as-swedish-television-unearths-cambodian-production-scandal) about the “Poverty Pay” scandal in Cambodia, and a documentary is a significant investment. I don’t think they would have dedicated an entire segment to this issue if it weren’t a major scandal. I also found a different article from 2013 that Beyonce came under fire for continuing to be the face of the brand in light of a series of issues with their outsourced labor (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2332652/Beyonce-H-Ms-Bangladesh-sweatshop-scandal-employees-forced-work-days-end-face-sexual-abuse-child-labour-rife.html). There were a number of other results on that topic as well. I think that goes to show that what qualifies as “transparency” is not always a very high standard for openness and being actively public about scandals or shortcomings. Reading only what H&M has to say about its policies on corporate responsibility is one thing, but learning the real implications on the stakeholders and how the company responds to them is another.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maddie I really enjoyed reading your comment. After reading Julia’s post I too thought about what H&M might be choosing to leave out of their website. I think it is easy for companies to state all the things they do well but leave out all the bad things they have done in the past. I think this is an important thing for customers to think about when looking into a companies social responsible practices with the company website as their only source. With H&M having so many stores around the world and such cheap prices I imagined I would find some manufacturing violations they have made in the past. After doing a google search similar to yours I found my hypothesis was correct!

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