The fashion chain reported its results in its latest sustainability report entitled ‘H&M Conscious Actions: Sustainability Report 2013’.

Of the different materials it uses, cotton is the one H&M uses the most.

The retailer has pledged to get all of its cotton from sustainable sources by 2020. According to H&M, sustainable source means “it’s either organic, better or recycled”.

The news comes as H&M head of sustainability Helena Helmersson recently told that the fashion chain supported the circular economy which was a “prerequisite” for them and a concept that “is embedded in our long-term profitability”.

H&M has worked with environmental charities WWF and Solidaridad to help increase its use of sustainable cotton. The charities have formed a ‘Better Cotton Initiative’ organisation that promotes sustainable farm practices. H&M is a member of this initiative.

The fashion chain is currently using 10.8% organic cotton in its products and 5% of ‘Better Cotton’. It only uses 0.01% of recycled cotton.

Cotton is a natural renewable fibre that offers many advantages, but also a number of concerns. According to the fashion chain, the conventional cotton required to make an average T-shirt needs about 11 bathtubs of water to grow. In addition to this, about 10% of all pesticides in the world are used in cotton production.

In its report, H&M claims that using sustainable cotton will help farmers and their communities improve their standard of living.

Elsewhere in the report, the fashion chain said it had launched the first closed loop products that contain 20% recycled material from collected garments.

In 2013, close to 100% of its worldwide stores were involved in the collection of used clothing, with H&M aiming to develop this into a fully closed loop system.

Around 3,047 tonnes of unwanted garments were collected under this scheme.

The fashion chain also has waste targets. A total of 92% of its waste that it handles at its warehouses was recycled. It missed its aim to recycle 95% of warehouse waste last year but it is still working towards this goal.

Speaking about H&M’s sustainable fashion future, chief executive Karl-Johan Persson said: “Of course I hope that H&M will continue to grow and contribute to jobs and development around the world. But to continue growing, we need to consider our planet’s boundaries. I believe that the way fashion is made and consumed will change.

“I hope that we will be able to produce fashion in a closed loop, using less of our planet’s resources and reducing waste instead. For the resources that we will still need, we must share them fairly between today’s and future generations.

“That means, for example, that already today we are setting the direction so that we play our part in ensuring that there will be enough clean water for everyone. I also hope that all garment workers around the world will earn a fair living wage, which in turn will contribute to stable production markets and a more mature garment industry.”

He also said that he believed H&M’s customers will “increasingly demand products that not only look good and are affordable, but that are also made sustainably”.

Liz Gyekye

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