Let’s talk about H&M for a moment. Not only does it have affordable prices, on-trend items and a wide selection, but it has a very impressive carbon emissions mission. Many may be prone to lump H&M in with other fast-fashion brands such as Forever 21 and Shein; however, its unique business goals allow it to cater to the latest trends without sacrificing sustainability, quality and design, making it a truly stand-out company among fashion retailers.
In terms of classic mall brand names such as Gap and American Eagle, H&M is a name we’ve all heard before but perhaps unintentionally overlooked. A Swedish brand that opened its doors in 1947, this company has seen exponential growth in many parts of the world, running 5,000 stores in 74 countries and reaching over 33 countries with its online store. So, how did this small Swedish store explode into a global empire? The company relied on several strategic marketing strategies that allowed it to catapult itself to the level of the other fashion giants — now, it’s a leading name in mall brands and competes with high street brands such as Zara. H&M’s entire marketing endeavor revolves around its goal to provide the customer with high-quality products that are trend-forward at the lowest price possible. To do so, the company carefully controls its transport and labor costs without sacrificing its steadfast sustainability goals.
Unlike many companies, H&M is actually committed to its sustainability goals, not just using it as a marketing scheme or a buzzword. The company has a very concrete carbon emission goal timeline that accounts for the company’s projected growth. H&M hopes to double its sales as soon as 2030 while halving its carbon footprint in the same period. Even more impressively, the company hopes to reach complete carbon neutrality by 2040 against a 2019 baseline. Following the carbon outlines expressed by the Paris Agreement, H&M’s goals fall in line with the Science Based Targets Initiative’s (SBTi) Net-Zero Standards, used to help companies translate global carbon goals into corporate targets. Its program is fluid and H&M plans to update its goals and practices as new scientific discoveries are made.
What does H&M’s plan to reach these goals actually look like? Firstly, H&M is working to phase out coal from its production. As of 2022, it stopped onboarding new suppliers that have on-site coal boilers in an effort to transition its manufacturing to a green energy-based platform. To do so, H&M is offering financial support to its current suppliers so that they can start the transition to renewable energy sources. Additionally, the company has implemented internal carbon prices, which inflates the prices of goods that are less sustainable to incentivize consumers to make greener choices. The hope is to adjust the price over time to maximize its impact.
Recently announcing a new partnership with Maisie Williams as a Global Sustainability Ambassador, H&M has also launched an initiative to encourage the creation of what it calls a “loop” in fashion — using recycled materials, reworking old clothes and offering second-hand options to consumers. The desired result of this effort is to create a circular business model instead of the linear model we are accustomed to, where clothing is produced, consumed and disposed of. Instead, the hope is to have the materials and products filter back into the consumer cycle, minimizing waste and production emissions.
Not only is H&M leading the way in sustainability and green energy usage, but it also works hard to ensure that its products cater to fashion trends without feeding into the negative cycle of fast fashion. To ensure that its branding and products remain relevant, H&M frequently launches collaborations with high-end designers, such as Versace and Comme des Garcons.
Most recently, the company collaborated with Iris Apfel, an American businesswoman, interior designer and fashion icon who made her name from her quintessential 2005 show at the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which featured her signature penchant for clashing, vibrant colors, patterns and textiles. With the goal of fostering self-expression for customers, her collection with H&M features all of the maven’s unique style elements while providing affordability and accessibility. H&M does so without sacrificing the quality of the product. In Apfel’s own words: “You wouldn’t know these clothes weren’t couture. I mean, the workmanship. I’m a detail freak, and they were just wonderful.” Explore the vibrant pieces of her collaboration here.
If you think that the company couldn’t get any better — think again. H&M is also very committed to diversity and inclusivity in its product designs. It ensures that everyone, no matter what gender or stature, is able to explore their unique identities at an affordable price.
Overall, it is important to think about the impact you have as a consumer when buying clothing products. While not all of us have the capital to shop from famously sustainable brands such as Reformation, it is important to remember that even among mall brands, there are still some options that are better than others. H&M brings accessibility, something vital, into the world of sustainable fashion, offering reasonable prices for well-made products. So, if you are looking to refresh your wardrobe this summer, look no further than H&M. Your wallet, and the planet, will be glad.