H&M banks on a fashion-conscious fashion conscience

Wed Jun 24, 2015 1:14pm EDT
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By Anna Ringstrom

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish fashion company Hennes & Mauritz is focusing on its ethical profile to drive long-term sales growth as shoppers become more interested in how clothes are produced as well as their environmental impact, its new sustainability chief said.

The fashion industry has come under increasing pressure to cut water use and pesticides in cotton farming, reduce pollution from textile factories and improve factory conditions, particularly after the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh two years ago.

Opinion is split on whether companies are doing enough. While worker rights group Clean Clothes Campaign has accused H&M of using the sustainability issue as a marketing ploy, Corporate Knights magazine declared it to be among the world's most sustainable companies.

Anna Gedda, H&M's head of sustainability, is determined the latter view will prevail. Gedda, who reports directly to Chief Executive Karl-Johan Persson, said that H&M customers are demanding more transparency about the origin of the clothes they buy.

"We see it in the amount of queries we get by mail, in stores and in customer surveys. People are aware and want more information on social as well as environmental issues," she told Reuters.


Several fashion groups, including H&M's biggest rival Inditex, have ramped up their efforts on environmental and social issues in recent years. H&M, which was relatively quick to recognize the importance of ethical issues to consumers, has been among the more vocal.   Continued...

A worker of Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) is thrown in the air by colleagues during the inauguration of the first H&M store in Peru, at the Jockey Plaza mall in Lima, in this May 9, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo/Files