The brand’s new ‘Conscious Denim’ collection is put through stringent criteria set by Spanish denim consultants Jeanologia, which examines the denim washing processes, including water and energy consumption. 

“We’ve worked hard to reduce the environmental impact from the washing processes alongside using materials that are more sustainable,” said H&M’s head of sustainability Helena Helmersson. “The collection is full of great pieces, and proves how sustainability can equal great style.”

The collection includes pieces for women, men and children, and will be available worldwide in around 1,000 stores for women and 700 stores for men, as well as online. Each garment in the Conscious Denim range will feature a ‘Clever Care’ label, with details on sustainable wear and care, while in-store hang tags will describe the conscious qualities of each piece. 

Recent figures from sustainability consultancy The Context Group reveal that it can take up to 11,000 litres of water to produce a pair of jeans. Earlier this year, Levis Strauss CEO Chip Bergh announced plans for the denim maker to explore whether its customers will pay a premium for more sustainable jeans, calling his brand the ‘ultimate in slow fashion’.

Supply chains

The launch of the new denim range from H&M comes in the same week that the company announced it has teamed up with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to promote sustainable global supply chains in the fashion industry.

The new agreement will include joint work on industrial relations, wages and training in factories that supply the Swedish clothing brand.

The deal will also position H&M as an ambassador for the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda – an initiative that aims to create jobs, guarantee workers’ rights and promote social inclusion.

“We see the cooperation as a great opportunity to further strengthen our work towards the establishment of well-functioning industrial relations on all our strategic production markets” said H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson.

Better factories

The clothing company has a strong history of corporate responsibility since launching its social sustainability drive in 2009. In August it was named as the world’s biggest user of sustainable cotton.

“Issues in the garment industry are systemic and require action that helps develop effective industrial relations and promote respect of international labour standards,” said ILO director-general Guy Ryder. 

“There is therefore an urgent need to establish strategic and comprehensive collaborations with companies that have experience in these fields, such as H&M.” 

The two organisations have been working together since 2001, notably through the Better Factories in Cambodia campaign, which tackled industrial relations, wages and governance issues. 

The relationship is still the exception rather than the rule, with 50% of fashion brands reporting on their implementation of climate protection measures, but only 4% having demonstrable positive results, according to a Rank a Brand report.

Brad Allen

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