The global fashion industry is taking steps to rework its sinister image as the second-most polluting industry on earth. According to the United Nations, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon footprint and nearly 20% of global wastewater.
Fast fashion brands in particular have been in the spotlight due to their widespread wasteful practices that are exacerbated by high rates of production and low prices.
Brands like H&M have a high carbon footprint because they are using tonnes of natural resources to produce tonnes of cheap clothing. Prices are low, demand is high so the cycle continues. Or rather the line continues, because this is an example of a linear economy, a straight line to a world with no resources left.
Now, another problem with the fashion industry is packaging waste as online shopping becomes increasingly widespread.
H&M Group says that they are “convinced that we need to make a shift from a linear packaging model to circular solutions.”
H&M Group’s the Laboratory is collaborating with Weekday (also part of H&M) to make online shopping more sustainable, by using reusable packaging and on-demand manufacturing.
The Laboratory is a think-tank within the H&M group that “works to take an outside-in perspective on our business and challenge our thinking.” One of the areas they work on is sustainability.
Earlier this year, the Laboratory and Weekday piloted on-demand printing which they said: “yielded good results.”
“On-demand enables us to produce just the right amount, based on customer demand, reducing unnecessary production and therefore unsold product,” said Laura Coppen, Circular/Sustainable Business Development, The Laboratory, in a statement.
Now the group has partnered with RePack, a Finnish startup that created a reusable packaging model for the textile industry.
The repack model re-circulates the same packaging over and over again. After receiving their order, customers will get a discount if they return the packaging, either by postbox, or Weekday store. The RePack is then cleaned and suitable to use again.
“A reusable packaging system makes sense for us to test as we are also sending items directly from the factory to customers. We will continue to iterate on our learnings as we go, whilst building new capabilities into our supply chain,” says Coppen.
This project will also focus on on-demand manufacturing the group says. Customers can choose either a t-shirt or a sweatshirt which is made from 100 % organic cotton, and then customize it by choosing between a variety of print, text and stickers. The print technology uses no water or banned chemicals.
The items in this project are also manufactured in a nearshore production facility enabling these products to be produced and shipped directly to customers, which will only take 2-3 days. This will reduce the number of steps in the supply chain, as well as unnecessary emissions and costs.
H&M is proving that it wants to lead the change within the fashion industry and the group has stated that it has a vision to become 100 % circular and renewable in the near future.
For the seventh year in a row H&M Group has been included in the prestigious Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. That the group has once again qualified among top 10% of global sustainability leaders is a strong fact-based recognition of its ambitions and efforts.
There is a lot of buzz around circularity and sustainability right now but the key is to find scalable solutions that can stand the test of time and H&M seems committed to testing ideas to see what works.
“We want to ensure that all our tests are heading the industry in the right direction, towards a more sustainable and circular future, that’s why we start small, evaluate the successes and scale smartly. We see on-demand as a great opportunity to be sustainable yet profitable. Reusable packaging is a very interesting case, and we’re curious to see how our customers react to a new offer,” said Coppen.