H&M, along with Inditex and MIT, lead plans to make clothes more sustainable
It’s 2016 and scientist Stephen Hawking has announced that he feels we have less than 1,000 years left on Earth. Global warming is becoming an increasing problem and it’s something we should all be concerned about. There’s a lot of things we can do to help reduce the problems creating global warming, and recycling is one of them. With this idea in mind, brands like H&M and Inditex have decided to lead the way when it comes to sustainable fashion.
Talk about recycling your clothes, or even wearing recycled clothes, and you can guarantee that most people will be dead set against it; an issue that H&M are very aware of. When it comes to sustainable fashion, H&M try their hardest to make sure their recycled clothes are more than just eco-friendly; they’re fashionable, comfortable and above all else, affordable. What more could you ask for from a brand?
You might be wondering exactly how fashion retailers have an impact on global warming, but they actually have a larger effect than you may have first realized. The textile industry uses an enormous amount of energy, creates a lot of textile waste and often uses slave labor, a very controversial subject often visited by media publications. H&M are currently working hard to reduce their textile waste, use of energy and they don’t use factories to manufacture their clothing, meaning that all of their employees are reasonably trained and fairly paid.
And H&M aren’t the only ones trying to make a difference in the world. Inditex, one of the largest fashion retailer groups in the world, has a set of initiatives laid out as a company to try and become a fully sustainable company. These initiatives are all about maintaining health and safety standards, teamwork regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, that all clothes meet human and ethical rights standards, creating a relationship with the communities the company do business with and making sure all clothes sold by Inditex are eco-friendly. With these initiatives set in place, the company has begun to make some improvements in the way they produce and sell clothing.
The term used for sustainable clothing adopted by companies such as H&M and Inditex is “circular economy” – the concept of turning textile waste into a new product and therefore reducing the number of textile waste in landfills. According to H&M, “Circularity is key,” and while their clothes are by no means completely recycled yet, they’ve taken a very advanced step in the right direction. You may have noticed before now that you can deposit old clothes into green recycling bins in H&M stores, sometimes in exchange for a gift voucher as a reward for being a little more economical with your clothing! Incentives like this encourage shoppers to think more about what they do with old clothes and whether or not they need to buy new ones.
There’s no denying the leading contributor to waste in the fashion industry is over-consumption – customers nearly always buy more clothes than they need, and a lot of people throw out clothes without having ever even worn them. However, there’s no way to control people’s spending habits – and most companies don’t want to either. This means making more sustainable clothing is the only option when it comes to making the fashion industry more eco-friendly.
But are the eco-friendly motions put in place by companies really having an effect? According to H&Ms 2015 Sustainability Report, since 2013 H&M have recycled enough material from old clothes to produce over 1 million new t-shirts, which is quite a large statistic to comprehend. In addition to this, H&M stores have collectively taken in over 12,000 tons of old clothing and have also managed to increase their use of renewable electricity, taking their 2014 statistic of 27% up to 78%.
As for Inditex, they have also been making an impact in the world of sustainable fashion. Each and every one of Inditex’s one billion products produced and sold each year meets at least three of the sustainability initiatives, making sure products are Green to Wear, Safe to Wear and Clear to Wear. As well as focusing on reducing how much water they use to produce their clothing and how much non-renewable energy they use too, Inditex is very big on making sure that each and every one of their employees is fairly paid and works in good conditions too.
Inditex isn’t taking on this battle alone, either. They have recently started to work with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to try and develop a whole new material, where the fibers of the material are 100% recyclable, as well as searching for other ways to make the fashion industry more sustainable for everyone. Working with MIT also allows the fashion retail company to work one on one with students, some of their largest customers. It creates a relationship in which the students can convey what they expect from a fashion brand while being informed about the importance of being economical when buying into the fashion industry. Educating people from this point forward is vital for the transition into sustainable fashion to be effective from here on in.
H&M and Inditex are both huge parts of the fashion retail industry and supply a lot of clothes to it, so there’s hope that they will be able to influence a number of other fashion retailers, particularly their competitors who may want to keep up with them.