As much as I don’t like fast fashion brands, I have to admit that I buy clothes for my daughter in H&M. Not all the time but usually, when the season changes, she grows up or needs specific clothes for school. Last weekend I was surprised to find many children’s and women’s clothes made of recycled polyester, recycled cotton, or Lenzing™ Ecovero™ fibers. I couldn’t help but wonder: is H&M sustainable now?
Before we get to it, I want to clarify that this article does not promote H&M. Nor do I want to encourage you to shop there. But I admit that sustainable brands for children are pricey and not everyone can afford it. Nevertheless, it is more sustainable to buy clothes in second-hands, on re-selling online platforms, or to inherit them after someone else’s children.
So far, I have not found a second-hand store that would sell nice pre-loved clothes for kids. It really depends on you what you consider nice and acceptable. Maybe my standards are too high or I am a clean freak. But there is a difference between second-hand stores that sell clothes for adults and those who carry kids fashion. The kids’ clothes are in a worse state, sometimes with spots and I just don’t feel comfortable buying it for my daughter. So it is really about personal feelings.
For a long time, I was critical about the H&M sustainability line for several reasons:
How can H&M eco-conscious line jeans cost 39,95 CHF when jeans from a sustainable brand MUD Jeans cost 130 CHF? Low price signifies that someone somewhere is paying the price. For example, this is a similar model on H&M’s US website and it costs only 29,90 $.
And although the tag says “made with recycled fibers” (as you can see on the photo above) the recycled cotton amounts to up to 20% only, the rest is virgin cotton.
As cotton is one of the most unsustainable materials on the planet, how does this equate to sustainability? Not to mention that adding “Let’s close the loop” can make you think that they are referring to a circular economy. It sounds like misinformation again. So before you buy anything, check the label.
H&M claims that: “if we included any more recycled cotton, the clothes simply wouldn’t have the same quality*.” But MUD Jeans, of which I own a pair, contains 23% and 40% post-consumer recycled denim**. Thus, it is possible to use more recycled cotton when you make great quality jeans and pay fair and living wages. It will get reflected in the price, but MUD Jeans also offers to recover the jeans once you don’t want them anymore and to recycle them into something new.
Even though H&M carries winter jackets made of 100% recycled polyester, it is still polyester. It is better than virgin polyester but it still remains polyester. And if you don’t inform people that they should use the Guppyfriend laundry bag when they wash clothes made of synthetic materials, you’re not making many positive changes to the environment anyway. It’s again a half-way initiative. The solution would be to offer the laundry bag when people purchase clothes made of synthetic materials and explain why they should use it.
Although H&M ranked number one on the Fashion Transparency Index 2020 it is important to remember that:
The Fashion Transparency Index 2020 reviews and ranks 250 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.
Thus, no matter how high fast fashion brands rank, it is important to remember that they are not evaluated by an independent company but based on how much information they (themselves) disclose. Therefore, I still remain critical. I mean, if I am supposed to evaluate myself, I will highlight only the positives, right?
Last but not least, we have to think about the modus operandi of fast-fashion brands. If you bring new clothes in the stores every two weeks, how sustainable can you be? When I look at sustainable Swiss brands that I have supported over the years, they come with new designs once a year or maximum twice a year. Unlike fast-fashion brands, their modus operandi is to respect natural cycles, use ethically or fairly sourced sustainable raw materials, dyes that don’t pollute the environment and offer fair and living wages.
I can see that H&M is trying to make changes but in order to take their sustainable efforts seriously, they have to also change their main motivation -which right now is how much profit they can make. Until this changes, their eco-conscious line will remain a trend instead of a real commitment.
After reading this article, what do YOU think? Do you think that H&M is sustainable? Do you shop at fast-fashion stores at all? Let me know in the comments below.