H&M eyes ‘climate positive’ status by 2040

International fashion brand H&M has unveiled a new sustainability strategy to become climate positive by 2040 through ambitious closed-loop and renewable targets.

The Swedish clothing firm announced the 100% Leading the Change strategy as part of its annual sustainability report, released on Tuesday (4 April). The new agenda sees H&M vow to create a “climate neutral” supply chain by 2030 before investment into offsetting measures will deliver the intended “net positive” impact by 2040.

“It has always been important for us to act in a way that makes it possible not just for present but also future generations to enjoy fashion. In a world with growing populations and finite resources, both H&M group and the entire fashion industry must look for new ways of working,” H&M’s chief executive Karl-Johan Persson said.

“I’m convinced our new sustainability strategy presented in this report will take us closer towards our vision; to lead the change towards circular and renewable fashion while being a fair and equal company.”

H&M aims to create the “climate neutral” supply chain in its Tier 1 and 2 operations, covering all manufacturing, processing and subcontracted supplier facilities. Following that, H&M will invest into the protection of carbon sinks alongside other projects, to create a net positive impact.

The carbon neutral aspect of the strategy is already in full swing. H&M, which operates more than 4,300 stores globally, reduced carbon emissions by 47% in the last 12 months. The company has since set a new 30% emissions reduction target per product against a 2017 baseline.

Two key components of the climate positive target are the use of renewable energy and the adoption of circular economy principles. H&M already sources 96% of its electricity from renewable sources, mainly through certificates recognised by the GHG Protocol, and plans to push this to 100% in the near future.

The increase in renewables has been coupled with all fall in H&M’s electricity intensity per square metre of sales, by 8% against a 2007 baseline. The company has pledged to enrol 20% of its factories into energy-efficiency programmes by 2018, which will be ramped up to 100% by 2025.

Closed-loop clothes line

On the closed-loop front, H&M has pledged to use 100% recycled or sustainably sourced materials in its products by 2030. Currently, recycled content stands at 26%, while 43% of the company’s cotton comes from sustainable sources, such as the Better Cotton Initiative where H&M acts as the biggest certified user.

Circular economy principles will be applied to 80% of store concepts by 2025 and H&M is already striving to improve the collection of unwanted textiles. Since H&M signed up to the global Garment Collecting initiative in 2013, the group has collected 39,000 tonnes of unwanted textiles. Around 16,000 tonnes of textiles were collected in 2016.

By 2020, the clothing giant hopes to collect 25,000 tonnes annually. Last year, almost €800,000 from the total proceeds of the initiative was donated to the H&M Foundation for circular innovation. H&M is also a Global Partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

H&M’s increased focus on the circularity of clothes, including collection schemes, arrives as a Sainsbury’s-commissioned survey of 2,000 people found that 235m items of unwanted clothing look set to end up in UK landfills this spring.

Around 75% of the respondents admitted to discarding unwanted garments into bins, mainly because they were unaware that second-hand clothes could be recycled or accepted by charities and retail firms.

Last month, H&M launched a new ethical fashion range. made from H&M’s pioneering ‘Bionic’ material – a recycled polyester made from plastic shoreline waste. The new H&M Conscious Exclusive collection will be available in around 160 stores worldwide, and online, from 20 April.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie