H&M has formed a strategic alliance with Solidaridad, an international organization dedicated to creating responsible agricultural supply chains, to achieve more sustainable textile production. According to a post on Solidaridad’s blog, the parties have previously collaborated in sustainability projects and are now expanding their collaboration into a multiannual partnership.
“Only if we join forces with companies will we have an impact and be able to enhance the sustainability of the entire production chain, from the cotton fields and the textile factories to the consumer in the clothing store,” Janet Mensink, international coordinator of Cotton & Textile at Solidaridad, said in the post. “Together with H&M, we are focusing on benefits for the environment and on improving working conditions and wages.”
“We really appreciate Solidaridad’s great knowledge, integrity and pragmatic approach to work on progress,” said Henrik Lampa, Environmental sustainability manager at H&M. “We have, for example, further improved our way of working over the years with resource smart production thanks to our great collaboration.”
The partnership will tackle challenges in the following areas of H&M’s supply chain:
- Cotton — H&M and Solidaridad are both members of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which aims to teach cotton farmers and local organizations how to grow cotton more sustainably by saving water, improving the soil, and using fewer and harmless pesticides. BCI also help the farmers increase their income, thanks to higher yields and lower costs of the practices, as well as helping to combat child labor.
- Water — While BCI substantially reduces water use in cotton production, H&M and Solidaridad are also working with, among others, C&A and G-Star, to improve dyeing and washing techniques used in Bangladesh, and have started a cleaner production project — called the Better Mill Initiative — in China. The factories where textiles are washed and dyed receive tailor-made support to save energy and water, to use less chemicals and to reduce waste.
- Better working conditions — Together with various fashion brands, Solidaridad has developed a series of narrative educational videos that tell stories about working conditions in Indian factories. The videos are shown in the factories and are an accessible way to raise awareness among workers regarding their rights.
- Fair living wages — Solidaridad is part of H&M’s advisory body on wages, and together with academics and other union and NGO experts, they give advice for H&M’s action plan regarding better wages for factory workers.
“H&M is a frontrunner in this field. They put serious efforts to reach their sustainability goals and are transparently reporting on their performance in the supply chain,” Mensink said. “Much has been achieved. For instance, the percentage of sustainable cotton has gone up to 15.8%, which is a major achievement.
“We realise at the same time that the journey ahead to reach truly sustainable fashion is a long one. The fashion industry faces a number of serious challenges along their value chain, and H&M is not an exception,” she added. “That's why we team up — to tackle some of these challenges. We hope that our collaboration will support further improvements and we encourage H&M to continue increasing the transparency on its progress and challenges on this way.”