I have loved and disliked H&M over the years . They have been a real go-to staple fashion choice for me. Affordable and offering variety with a vast range of on-trend styles, but still keeping unique pieces in their collections. Their sizing however, has always driven me mad and this has been so off-putting that I did stop buying from them for quite some time. Another aspect that particularly bothers more about H&M, more so than other similar retailers is that their “sustainability” lacks substance.
I wanted to write a bit about H&M as they are a great brand heading in the right direction, but they do appear to be pushing “consciousness” and “sustainability” without enough action to warrant their advertising techniques and marketing. When you walk into H&M stores, or are browsing online, sustainability is not the focus point.
H&M is available in 62 different countries, recognised as a fast-fashion brand worldwide and is one of the largest retailers in the world, so it has a pretty big impact on the environment!
H&M have a “conscious collection” which is ethically derived and made from recycled and organic materials (50% of it is sustainably sourced). Which is great! However, it only counts for 5% of their products (2018). Prices have previously started at £5 and for their new Conscious Exclusive collection the prices start at £25, this sustainability is affordable! But, this can aid a “throwaway” fashion attitude, it’s very much a double edged sword when it comes to pricing sustainable fashion. For me it also brings into question the manufacturing process with workers wages and conditions, however I have not researched nearly enough into this to comment regarding H&M – But I have put a link to their sustainability section on their website at the bottom of this post as they do have a lot of information, although some areas are somewhat vague . . . This is another part of my imperfectly eco journey. Moving forward I will engage more with brands who are transparent and fully committed to ethically produced fashion. And as a consumer I will take time to research into brands manufacturing and distribution more.
Sustainable and ethical fashion should be available to everyone, and with prices this accessible, H&M have a great opportunity to increase their Conscious Collection and make this their main collection without missing out on customers. Although H&M have plans to expand their sustainable lines, the conscious collection currently feels like a token diffusion range rather than H&M stepping up and being a true force for change. So much marketing and advertising is about their sustainability but we don’t see that materialise in products either in stores or online #greenwashing
Less 1% of H&M’s total materials used is recycled.(2017)
I also find with H&M when you walk into their stores, although the choice is vast, the sheer amount on the rails is quite frankly insane! Some rails are so crammed with clothes it’s hard to go through them and hangers often fall off the edge whilst you are browsing. In general there is just A LOT, there are too many styles, from that how much waste is created? What pollution is generated during the manufacturing process? I don’t find their recycling scheme genuine when they produce such vast collections, and not to mention the amount of sale stock that just sits, and sits and sits in their stores. Why produce so much to have volumes left over? I am aware that H&M are not the only brand to do this but it’s very visually obvious when you are in their stores.
Then there are the “seasons” of stock, it really does put the “fast” in fast fashion. With such high volumes, it feels like a new line each week. (Which apparently is a thing having 52 lines a year!) What also frustrates me with fashion brands (not only H&M) but if you don’t buy right now, it is unlikely to be there the next time. This can put pressure on buyers and I have defiantly been one to buy clothing when I’m either unsure or don’t really have the money because of the potential time restrictions.
H&M are also getting in the way of truly sustainable and ethical brands. They are shouting the loudest but doing the minimum. There are so many companies out there who are basing their entire company on sustainable and ethical processes, creating amazing garments and taking real action to produce sustainable and ethical products from the start. To name a few:
The bottom line: H&M is definitely heading in the right direction and I look forward to seeing the other changes they drive. But, they can’t sit at the sustainable table just yet, and until then, they need to stop advertising and marketing as if the majority of what they produce doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment. They need to step aside for those brands who are fully committed, and stop Greenwashing so much of their advertising and marketing communications.
Resources and further reading: