- H&M will transition to 100% sustainable cotton by 2020, according to the company's 2018 annual report. The retailer reached roughly 95% sustainable supply in 2018.
- The commitment to sustainable cotton is part of a larger plan to convert to 100% recycled or sustainable materials across the company's supply chain by 2030. The report said 57% of the retailer's 2018 materials met this standard — up from 35% in 2017. It also recently announced plans to phase out conventional cashmere on environmental and animal welfare grounds as part of the same initiative.
- "Our size and our long-term approach mean we can support innovative sustainable solutions, including the development of new textile fibres, collaborating with partners to help make the innovations scalable," the report reads.
"Sustainable" is a term with a plethora of definitions. In the report, H&M makes clear it is working off a "circular" definition — meaning the company aims to produce clothes out of previously used materials or those that can have an indefinite life after their initial use. Though the 2020 goal is fast-approaching, H&M has been slowly adopting more sustainable practices since it debuted its "Conscious Collection" featuring organic cotton and sustainable materials in 2010 and has already made significant progress.
"Moving towards a circular model seeks to decouple future growth from resource use while accelerating innovation, more efficient operations and other business opportunities," the report describes — a far cry from the traditional fast fashion ethos.
Sustainable cotton is defined by H&M as organic, recycled or "Better Cotton" — which refers to cotton grown in a way approved by the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). BCI works with farmers to develop and teach a cotton production method "that cares for the environment, minimising the negative effects of fertilisers and pesticides, and caring for water, soil health and natural habitats."
According to the BCI, 93 BCI members sourced more than one million metric tons of Better Cotton in 2018, representing a 45% year-over-year increase. H&M is a founding member of the non-profit organization and its largest purchaser of approved cotton. Other major participants and purchasers include Adidas and Gap.
Notably, the goal of circular sourcing extends beyond clothes for H&M. The company is also working on converting all packaging to reusable, recyclable or compostable materials.
Working toward these lofty goals means getting suppliers on board, so H&M suppliers must sign a "Sustainability Commitment," covering climate, air quality, water resources, chemical use, waste, reuse and recycling, conservation of species and natural habitats along with animal welfare and ethics.