Special Report: Can H&M really claim ‘ethical’?
Is H&M the new home of ethical fashion?
The world’s second largest clothing retailer is trying to remake itself as a greener option. Lucy Siegle reports from Stockholm (this report originally appeared in guardian.co.uk)
H&M is not just a big player in “fast fashion”, it’s a giant. Estimates (fast fashion behemoths do not give out many production figures as the sector is intensely competitive) suggest it sells more than 550 million garments every year. It recently announced net quarterly profits of $412m. It is second only to Inditex, owner of Zara, as the world’s largest clothing retailer. The great fast fashion war pits Sweden’s richest man, Stefan Persson, chair of H&M, against Spain’s richest man, Amancio Ortega, co-founder of Zara.
And now, in an audacious move, H&M is positioning itself as the ethical solution, the retailer that can make ethics and fast fashion synonymous. It wants to be an ethical giant, too. I say “audacious” because, to concerned consumers and activists, fast fashion’s rapid-response production system, reliant on low-wage production in some of the poorest countries on Earth, is pretty much held responsible for environmental and social degradation in the global wardrobe. Indeed, having spent a large amount of time railing against it myself, it felt pretty audacious for me, too, to be sitting in the Stockholm headquarters of H&M last week.
The Observer was given early access to the brand’s latest sustainability report that will be published on 12 April. Few corporate CSR reports are read so widely. From activists to analysts, everyone will be keen to see if H&M can really crack it. click here to read more