Tuesday 24 April 2012

How Green Is H&M?

All eyes are on Swedish fast fashion giant H&M, as they move to reposition themselves as the green choice on the high street. But have they done enough to make that move more than an empty PR ploy?

The figures, published in their latest sustainability report, look impressive. A new code of conduct for their workers pushing for good working conditions. The highest use of organic cotton of any large fashion retailer, which a pledge to be 100% organic by 2020.

The announcement will also mark the launch of The Conscious Collection, a range made from Eco-fabrics like Tencel and (hooray!) hemp. The news looks good for H&M's sustainable credibility.

There's another side to the story, though. Talking about responsibility towards your workers is all well and good, but it's all still too easy for H&M to devolve that oversight to local factory owners. A unilateral announcement of a code of conduct is no replacement for proper dialogue with workers and decent investment in factory conditions.

As for the much-advertised Conscious Collection, Ms Wanda reports that it will only be available in less than 5% of stores - 100 shops worldwide. That's hardly a major rollout of a new ecological era, more a limited edition that looks good on the adverts.

H&M are making an effort to change things around, and any attempt to shift away from sweatshop conditions and harmful manufacturing techniques deserves applause.

But let's not kid ourselves. H&M are still a major fast fashion retailer, with all the ethical dilemmas that come with the territory. They have a long way to go before we'll buy their line on a bright sustainable future.

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