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The Hot Seat: Fashion Conscience

A prolific company steps up its green efforts to keep customers happy – and shopping.

With the earth’s resources in decline, how do retailers carry out business for the long haul?

For global retailer H&M, the way forward is to accumulate green credits. The company, which brings the latest styles into its stores on a daily basis, is going strong on responsible, earth-friendly programmes in a bid to counter its arguably massive production as the world’s second-largest fashion retailer.

“We want to be a natural part of a customer’s daily life, but in a very responsible way,” says Magnus Olsson, country manager of Greater China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. From turning to more sustainable materials such as organic cotton and setting ambitious targets to reduce energy consumption in stores, H&M efforts run across the company’s operations.

On the retail front, Olsson is piloting a new garment-collecting initiative across Asia, one of H&M’s most rapidly growing markets. The goal: getting customers to bring their old garb to the stores to be recycled. “If we can collect garments that can be donated, used in manufacturing new fabric or car seats, then we are using the material many times over,” says Olsson.

It’s an initiative he hopes will make people feel good about buying new fashion from H&M: “If we take responsibility for how we are producing garments, both environmentally and socially, as well as finding a way of taking care of used garments and fabrics, then we are closing the loop and making less of an impact on the environment.”

Olsson maintains there’s still much more to be done, in a world where the challenges are often beyond the ken of a single organisation. “We are working in a global world with many different players,” reflects Olsson, on H&M’s work with 800 suppliers in 1,800 factories. “We are humbled by the fact that there’s a lot left to do.”