At the time of writing, just days before the United Nations “emergency” Climate Summit, thousands of Australians took place in what was called the Global Climate Strike. Spearheaded by the nation’s school-age students, the strike was a bold move urging Australians to take the day off school, university or work in protest of what is said to be a disregard for the severity of the climate crisis we’re currently facing. While it was a national event, the effects were far-reaching, with international students (and adults) choosing to follow suit. Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg even praised the Global Climate Strike to her 3.7 million Instagram followers, commending those involved for taking tangible action.
TOP, PANTS, H&M, SHOP IN STORE
The Global Climate Strike was, and is, a sign of the times where the wokeness of younger generations is prompting power players (whether political or industrial) to reconsider what impact they’re having on the integrity of our planet. And somewhere in all of it, the way we consume, or more specifically shop, is undergoing some pretty revolutionary change.
Signs of a profound fashion retail realignment are essentially everywhere, from how we consider our purchases, to how we carry them home (without plastic, clearly). From raw materials and supply chains to the longevity versus disposal of what we buy, the pressure is on for our world to make good on change, and rightly so given that, according to a report issued by the United Nations, 85 per cent of garments produced end up in landfill or burned despite the fact they could have been reused. Further to that, the international fashion industry produces about 20 per cent of waste water every single year. To put that in perspective, it takes about 7000 litres of water to produce a single pair of denim jeans by standard practice.
While it’s an issue that involves each and every one of us, there’s no doubt that big business carries a lot of responsibility when it comes to pioneering new ways of doing things. Swedish retail giant H&M is one such company forging a path in the retail industry by championing sustainable and environmentally responsible practices. And considering H&M is one of the world’s largest clothing manufacturers, it’s proof that there is no corporate structure too big, nor production line too complex, that can’t be modified to better serve the world.
For H&M, the challenge to integrate monumental sustainability practices into the business hasn’t been a simple task, considering its pole position in the category of fast fashion. The company, which aims to democratise fashion, has seen wild success by making runway-inspired trends accessible to all. But the brand’s core values mean that operating responsibly is not a topic up for discussion. It’s now do or die, more so than ever, and H&M is dedicated to eradicating not just its own detrimental impact, but also that of the entire retail industry.
DRESS, H&M, SHOP IN STORE
WITHIN ITS MOST RECENT 2018 SUSTAINABILITY REPORT, THE H&M GROUP SET SOME LOFTY GOALS:
- To use only recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030
- To become climate positive by 2040 throughout the entire value chain
- To collect at least 25,000 tonnes of donated textiles in their stores annually by 2020
- For all cotton to come from sustainable sources by 2020
TOP, SKIRT, H&M, SHOP IN STORE
While the projections are ambitious, H&M has already moved mountains in recent years when it comes to sustainability. The concept of the H&M Conscious Collection is an early but prime example. The collections (that are released seasonally but available year round) are an opportunity for the business to try out new sustainable materials (like Tencel, which is a biodegradable fibre made using dissolved wood pulp and eco-friendly solvents) and then gauge consumer feedback before incorporating it into normal production. Not to mention the collections are beautifully crafted; proof that the responsible and the stylish can co-exist.
The idea of circular fashion is another essential avenue being explored by H&M and the fashion industry at large. It’s a concept that disrupts the irresponsible, linear system for one that is a closed loop. Essentially, it’s clothing that is designed, sourced and produced with the intention of circulating responsibly and effectively before it eventually breaks down in a way that doesn’t cause harm. While it sounds dubious, the idea of cyclical fashion is all around us in the shape of rental boutiques, biodegradable materials, repurposed wares and the rise of consignment. Garment recycling is a service that was pioneered by H&M in 2013 in an effort to assist the continuation of the fashion cycle, rather than have garments discarded to landfill. Clothes of any condition are accepted, before being reused, re-worn or recycled accordingly. In 2018, over 20,649 tonnes of clothing were collected by H&M, with the goal of growing the sum to 25,000 tonnes annually by 2020. That’s the equivalent of almost 100 million T-shirts per annum circulated in some way that would have otherwise been dumped. It’s incredible and available in every single H&M boutique worldwide.
Sustainability, with its 1.2 billion results on Google, is one of the most discussed topics in the current newscape, but without action, it’s as good as nothing. H&M isn’t just talking when it comes to implementing change, but also doing. And, thankfully, others are doing it too. It’s not simple by any means, and there’s a lot of work to be done, but as H&M proves, it’s not impossible. Here’s to doing good and doing it more.
DRESS, H&M, SHOP IN STORE
REFERENCES: UN Report: unfccc.int/news/un-helps-fashion-industry-shift-to-low-carbon, School strike for climate: schoolstrike4climate.com
VIDEOGRAPHY: MITCH PAYNE
ART DIRECTION: KIMBERLEE KESSLER
STYLING: PATRICK ZACZKIEWICZ
HAIR & MAKEUP: HELEN SAMARYAN
MODEL: DAGA / PRISCILLAS
WORDS: EMILY ALGAR