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STOCKHOLM – H&M’s head of sustainability, Anna Gedda, has finally addressed the thorny issue of whether fast fashion can ever be sustainable. In an interview to coincide with the release of the company’s sustainability report, she said: “I don’t believe that providing fashion on a large scale and working in a sustainable way needs to be a contradiction.”

Gedda suggested the challenges around sustainability facing H&M are industry-wide and therefore need collaboration. She said: “For example, our goal to become 100 per cent fair and equal is very much dependent on industry collaboration. While we are seeing good progress with industrial relations and wage systems through our work with ACT and GFA, systemic change takes time. It is a complex undertaking that involves multiple players.

“Similarly, on the environmental side, our core goals – to become 100% circular and climate positive – depend heavily on collaborations that will further the development of new technology and innovation. Finding innovations to fill the technological gaps we have throughout our supply chain and bringing these new innovations to market fast enough are two of our biggest challenges.”

Gedda said accelerating the move toward circularity is a key priority at H&M, although at present only a tiny percentage of its clothing is fully recycled. Our own observation here is that the apparel industry’s growing use of elastane is a serious barrier to circularity.

She added: “Here our focus is on the continued quest for more recycled and sustainably sourced materials, improved design, production processes and product lifespan. Innovation will be key to achieving our 100 per cent circular ambition.”

Gedda said that H&M will continue to work with the SAC and also the Higg Index, as well as exploring other solutions.

She added: “We are, of course aware that our strategy is very ambitious and the solutions needed to achieve some of our goals are simply not in place yet. However, a company of our scale and reach has a responsibility as well as a great opportunity to lead the change towards a more sustainable industry. The evidence is clear: our planet is running out of natural resources and our population is growing exponentially so we must be bold and ambitious in our work. Of course, there is always the risk of some failures along the way, but I would rather fail having pushed the boundaries as far as possible than having only done what’s expected.”


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