H&M announced two new initiatives this week centered on the betterment of its supply chains, one from the social perspective and one from the environmental.
First, the apparel company signed a unique agreement with ILO, under which the partners will address industrial relations, wages, capacity-building for social partners and skills development throughout H&M’s supply chain.
The H&M/ILO collaboration dates back to 2001, when the clothing company joined the ILO Better Factories programme in Cambodia. The new strategic partnership will promote a wide range of activities with the aim of further strengthening the sustainability of H&M’s supply chain. The activities will be both at the global, national and enterprise level in a large number of countries. The partnership is also intended to establish a positive model for other operators and create a global alliance to promote the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda.
“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 ILO has a tripartite structure with governments, employers’ organizations and workers’ organizations from 185 countries as members.
H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson said: “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. ILO, with its unique tripartite composition, is the perfect partner for addressing issues such as wages and training and skills development in the textile industry.”
This expanded supply chain work with the ILO should complement H&M's broadened collaboration with Solidaridad — the two announced in April they have expanded their work into a multiannual partnership aimed at tackling challenges in the areas of water, cotton, working conditions and fair living wages.
Also this week, H&M announced the October 2 release of its Conscious Denim collection, which not only uses more sustainable materials, but also more conscious processes. In a first for H&M, the washes used on its denim have been graded to assess their environmental impact, including energy and water use. 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.
"We're so excited about Conscious Denim at H&M,” says Helena Helmersson, Head of Sustainability at H&M. “We’ve worked hard to reduce the environmental impact from the washing processes alongside using materials that are more sustainable. The collection is full of great pieces, and proves how sustainability can equal great style."
When creating Conscious Denim, H&M used criteria from Spanish denim consultants Jeanologia to test its denim-washing processes, including water consumption and energy consumption. To meet the Conscious Denim standards at H&M, the materials have to be more sustainable, and the washes have to achieve the highest status, according to Jeanologia’s criteria.
Each garment in the Conscious Denim range will feature the Clevercare label, with details on sustainable wear and care, while in-store hang tags will describe the conscious qualities of each piece.