At H&M, we like to think of sustainability as something we do, rather than something we simply say. This is an ongoing process, with a clear aim of continuous improvement. This is a journey that requires determination, passion and teamwork.
Our vision is for all our operations to be run in a way that is sustainable; economically, socially and environmentally. Turning this vision into reality will help us do great business using fewer resources. It will also allow us to improve the livelihood for people and strengthen the communities where we operate. We are involved in various projects and initiatives related to both environmental and social issues. For more information, please see hm.com/conscious.
H&M strives to reduce textile waste – So we initiated Garment Collecting
Instead of throwing old or unwanted garments away, you can bring these to the H&M Store. We will then give them a new life. Together with I:collect we have created probably the world’s biggest retail garment take back system. In the short run we work to prevent textiles ending up in landfills and in the long run to close the textile loop. In early 2014, we took the first big steps in this mission and made the first products with at least 20% recycled material from collected garments. Want to know more, please check out:
The H&M business concept is to offer fashion and quality at the best prices with sustainability as an added value. We achieve this by buying directly from manufacturers and by having efficient logistics and our own warehouses, not by compromising on our sustainability requirements. We are also cost-conscious at every stage and transporting goods by rail and sea is actually cheaper and results in lower carbon dioxide emissions than more expensive air transport.
We make every effort to support our suppliers so that production takes place with the health of customers and workers in mind, as well as the environment. All our suppliers working with wet processes, such as dyeing or washing, are required to treat their wastewater. Wastewater quality in our supply chain has to meet quality levels defined by the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Water Group or relevant local laws, whichever are the stricter. These requirements form part of our supplier audit programme.
We also restrict the use of hazardous chemicals by means of our restrictions list, which all our suppliers are contractually bound to comply with. Our chemical restrictions list has been updated regularly since 1995 and was last updated in 2013. In 2013 we also introduced our first, so called, positive lists to help our suppliers choosing the chemical products that comply with our restrictions.
With our strong focus on sustainability, we don’t believe there is a direct conflict of interest between affordable prices and low climate impact.
H&M’s auditors carry out regular audits, both announced and unannounced to ensure that there are no underage workers at the factories. Child labour is extremely rare in the export garment industry. If, contrary to expectations, child labour is found to be used, H&M requires the supplier to take responsibility and work together with H&M and the families to find a solution in the best interests of the children in question. An investigation is then carried out which looks at how best to resolve the situation based on the interests of the children.
In many instances the solution will involve the supplier contributing financially to give the children access to education, while also compensating the families for loss of income. If H&M discovers that a supplier or any of its subcontractors is repeatedly breaching this ban on child labour, the contract is simply terminated.
We have been working with UNICEF since 2004 to protect the rights of some of the poorest children in the world. Currently, we are reaching out to more than two million children and the adults around them as part of two projects in India and Bangladesh, known as All for Children. The H&M Conscious Foundation took over the project at the end of 2014 and will continue to support the project with UNICEF until 2018.
No animal testing is carried out on our cosmetics during production or on the finished products.
Animal welfare is important to H&M, and we do not accept animal abuse. We are in no way involved with mulesing and buy only from suppliers that guarantee mulesing-free merino wool.
H&M does not sell real fur. H&M only sells leather from sheep, pigs, goats and cattle that have been bred for meat production, not just for their skin. No other leather is permitted in products sold by H&M.
All products in the H&M range have the country of origin stated on the label.
Naturally, the health and safety of our customers is a top priority for us. This is why we work actively to restrict the use of chemicals. Our restrictions are some of the most stringent in the industry and often go well beyond legislative demands. All suppliers making products for H&M are contractually bound to comply with our restrictions list.
We apply the precautionary principle. This means that we are proactive in restricting chemicals, even if there is still scientific uncertainty as to whether or not they pose a risk to humans. We regularly test our products – both our own and those manufactured by third parties – to ensure that they do not contain harmful chemicals. H&M banned perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) from all its products in 2013. We are also part of the Roadmap to Zero, which strives to achieve zero discharge of hazardous chemicals.
We agree that wages in some production countries are too low. Ensuring that all textile workers should be able to live on their wages has always been our vision, and this is also stated in our Code of Conduct.
In November 2013, we developed a new roadmap based on our vision: a fair living wage covering workers’ basic needs should be paid by all our commercial goods suppliers. One important element of this is that H&M’s purchasing practices should permit this; while another states that this requirement is based on a skilled workforce whose wages are negotiated and reviewed annually, involving democratically elected trade unions or worker representatives. So the roadmap is allowing us to provide workers with the tools they need to negotiate their own wages, and we support this process.
It is important to remember that H&M neither owns nor operates the factories that make our products. So we do not set or pay the wages of factory employees. Even so, we bear the great responsibility of engaging in every possible way and promoting higher wages in production countries. We aim to contribute towards positive long-term development and higher wages for factory workers through our holistic wage strategy.
We employ full-time auditors whose job it is to check compliance with our Code of Conduct. During audits, they review a list of over 300 points relating to working conditions, the working environment, etc. After each audit, we then collate the results in a report that indicates where improvements are needed, and the supplier is then set a deadline for submitting an action plan. The auditors then visit the factories to follow up on whether these actions have been implemented. H&M also supports suppliers’ improvement work through training and projects of various kinds. Find out more about our Code of Conduct follow-up.
Doing our own audits immediately gives us a comprehensive view of the extent to which our suppliers are complying with our social and environmental requirements. Furthermore, integrating sustainability work into our day-to-day operations is a key priority at H&M. Our auditors conduct an in-depth primary audit when choosing suppliers. They then have a mandate to make a final decision about whether a supplier or individual factory meets our minimum requirements.
Orders can only be placed with a factory with the approval of our auditors. All the factories approved during this initial assessment are covered by our Full Audit Programme (FAP). The FAP allows us to constantly monitor the progress made by each factory and work to remediate any non-compliance that might arise. Any non-compliance identified requires the supplier to draft a remediation plan, which we then follow up on. We provide or facilitate additional support in implementing this plan wherever needed.
Additional independent verification audits conducted by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) ensure the quality of our audit programme and help us to constantly improve our methods. This is important as we strive to tackle root causes of non-compliance in a transparent, trustful and sustainable manner. Participating in the FLA also provides plenty of opportunities for cooperation with other companies and the FLA’s partner organisations with the aim of improving working standards in our supply chain.
H&M is constantly working to improve cotton farming conditions. Our active involvement in the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), where we are members of the steering committee, is one of these initiatives. The BCI’s ambition is to enable millions of farmers around the world to grow cotton in a way that is more beneficial for both the farming community and the environment. Find out more about the BCI here.
H&M also offers clothes made using organic cotton. The cotton used in these clothes is 100 per cent organic, certified by independent certification bodies such as the Control Union or IMO. We also incorporate organic cotton into some of our children’s clothing and babywear. We continue to tell cotton farmers that there is a demand for organic cotton and encourage them to switch from conventional to organic production. H&M is now one of the world’s biggest buyers of organic cotton. Find out more about certification of organic cotton here.