H&M and Solidaridad: Partners in Sustainable Textiles

Solidaridad and fashion retailer H&M have entered into a strategic alliance to achieve a more sustainable textile production chain. Both parties have collaborated in sustainability projects for a long time and have now deepened their collaboration to a multiannual partnership.

Janet Mensink, international coordinator Cotton & Textile at Solidaridad: “Only if we join forces with companies will we have an impact and be able to enhance the sustainability of the entire production chain, from the cotton fields and the textile factories to the consumer in the clothing store. Together with H&M, we are focusing on benefits for the environment and on improving working conditions and wages.”

H&M and Solidaridad work together in the following fields

  1. Cotton
    H&M and Solidaridad are both members of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). This initiative aims to teach cotton farmers and local organisations how to grow cotton in a more sustainable manner, for example by saving water and improving the soil, but also by using fewer and harmless pesticides. The income of these farmers increases thanks to the higher yields and lower costs of this method. Moreover, the BCI works on social issues, for example to combat child labour by organising education for the children.

  2. Water
    The Better Cotton Initiative substantially reduces water use in cotton production. In addition, H&M and Solidaridad work with, among others, C&A and G-star, to improve dyeing and washing in Bangladesh. In China, Solidaridad and H&M have started a cleaner production project (Better Mill Initiative). The factories where textiles are washed and dyed receive tailor made support to save energy and water, to use less chemicals and to reduce waste.

  3. Better working conditions
    Together with various fashion brands, Solidaridad has developed an Indian soap with stories about working conditions in Indian factories. These educational videos are shown in the factories and are an accessible way to raise awareness among workers regarding their rights.

  4. Fair living wages
    Solidaridad is part of H&M’s advisory body on wages, and together with academics and other union and NGO experts, they give advice for H&M’s action plan regarding better wages for factory workers.

Commitment and transparency

Today H&M is presenting its Conscious Actions Sustainability Report for 2013. This includes highlights like the Fair Living Wage policy, the clothing waste recycling system and the introduction of organic leather. Mensink: “H&M is a frontrunner in this field. They put serious efforts to reach their sustainability goals and are transparently reporting on their performance in the supply chain. Much has been achieved. For instance, the percentage of sustainable cotton has gone up to 15.8%, which is a major achievement. We realise at the same time that the journey ahead to reach truly sustainable fashion is a long one. The fashion industry faces a number of serious challenges along their value chain, and H&M is not an exception. That´s why we team-up, to tackle some of these challenges. We hope that our collaboration will support further improvements and we encourage H&M to continue increasing the transparency on its progress and challenges on this way”.

Henrik Lampa, Environmental sustainability manager at H&M: “We really appreciate Solidaridads great knowledge, integrity and pragmatic approach to work on progress. We have for example further improved our way of working over the years with resource smart production thanks to our great collaboration.”