Developed in partnership with conservation organisation WWF, the strategy will also create positive change in key river basins with major garment production.

During 2012, WWF and H&M performed a comprehensive evaluation of all H&M’s efforts and challenges related to water, including agricultural production of fibres and dyeing and washing processes.

The company’s strategy was developed through the findings of the review and will be implemented over  three years, beginning this year.

According to WWF, no other fashion company has such a comprehensive global water strategy.

CEO of H&M, Karl-Johan Persson, said: “Water is a key resource for H&M, and we are committed to ensuring water is used responsibly throughout our value chain. We do this to minimise risks in our operations, protect the environment and secure availability of water for present and future generations”.

H&M plans to embed sustainability by providing its designers and buyers with additional training on water impacts of raw material production, as well as wet processes for different styles.

The retailer will also improve its internal water efficiency, minimise its suppliers’ impact on water, and educate staff and customers about water issues.

The strategy will be implemented across all of H&M’s 48 national markets, with the aim of reaching all 750 direct suppliers and many fabric manufacturers with information about the strategy.

H&M will initially work on engagement on water management with 190 suppliers manufacturing the majority of its products, while approximately 1,000 H&M staff in buying offices, production and sales will be directly involved in implementing the strategy. All 94,000 H&M employees will also learn about water issues.

A specific aim of the strategy will involve WWF and H&M working in collaboration with policymakers, NGOs, water institutions and other companies to support better management of particular river basins in China and Bangladesh – key production hubs for the company.

In addition, H&M will support WWF freshwater conservation projects in the Yangtze river basin in China.

Director General of WWF International, Jim Leape, said: “This partnership marks an evolution in the corporate approach to water. H&M understands that its long-term success depends on access to adequate water supplies.

“It also understands that its social license to operate depends on being a good neighbour and good steward of shared resources. H&M’s water strategy is an integral part of its business plan. We hope other companies will be inspired to take the same approach,” he added.

Leigh Stringer

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