Last year, on World Water Day, WWF and fashion retailer H&M announced a five-year global partnership, an agreement that centers around climate action and the broader sustainability challenges facing not just the Swedish brand, but the fashion industry in general. Significantly, this new initiative followed the success of the organizations’ previous partnership, which focused on water stewardship and moving H&M towards best practice, that saw the work which started within H&M’s own operations expand beyond the company itself.
Together, WWF and H&M transformed internal water management at H&M, from decision-making at head office to staff practices in retail stores and manufacturing processes on the factory floor. The game-changing strategies that were adopted also brought stakeholders from business, civil society and politics together to contribute to more sustainable water management in entire river basins in Bangladesh, as well as in China, where an Industrial Park project has been established to allow suppliers to share resources and improve their water and chemical management.
The partnership also made strides in raising awareness on water issues and invited other companies and networks to take joint action for water stewardship. Commenting on its success, Mariann Eriksson, Marketing Director at WWF said, “After working closely together with H&M for the past three years, we know they are committed to being good stewards of shared resources, and eager to contribute to shifting the industry towards more sustainable models."
The 2016 partnership has taken the previous commitments on water to the next level, including an increased focus on collective action with other companies, policy makers and civil society at chosen river basins in China, while also expanding into new areas of climate and sustainability strategy. On climate in particular, WWF and H&M are endeavouring to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in prioritized parts of H&M’s value chain by working with suppliers, customers and policy makers towards a low carbon future.
"This partnership enables H&M to explore future possibilities and address two of our main sustainability challenges, climate and water, in a constructive way,” said Pierre Börjesson, H&M’s Sustainability Business Expert Climate & Water, “It will showcase to other companies that taking on sustainable business practices is fundamental for future business success.”
H&M’s efforts to promote sustainability are well documented in the media, and among fast fashion brands they do seem to be leading the conversation. The company does have its critics, given its business model, but with the support of WWF, their joint efforts mark one more step towards a truly sustainable fashion industry.