In a move sure to please conscientious teens, students and other thrifty eco-fashionistas everywhere, H&M has recently announced that it will introduce organic cotton pieces for women, teens, children and babies in selected stores in all markets from March 2007. In order to increase the demand for organic cotton and thereby encourage cotton growers to convert to organic cultivation, H&M started to use organic cotton a few years ago. At the start, it was included mainly in a selection of babies’ and children’s garments, but they have worked towards using an increased amount of organic cotton and in 2003 became a member of Organic Exchange, an organization that promotes organic cotton worldwide. During 2005, they sold garments containing more than 40 tons organic cotton, and now it looks like H&M is going for a serious organic expansion.
In response to the below comments…
H&M has 700 suppliers and 2,000 production units. 60% of their suppliers are in Asia, the rest are in Europe. The Asian suppliers were reviewed 1,387 times. 33% of the visits were unannounced. Factory employees were interviewed in 200 factories. Additional targeted factory visits were made off hours. They have focused on improving conditions for legal, yet juvenile workers. They found one under age employee and convinced the family the child should be in school and paid the family a monthly fee while the child was in school.
Additionally, in 2005, H&M was accepted as a participating company in the Fair Labor Association (FLA), effective 1 January 2006. The FLA is a multi-stakeholder coalition of companies, universities and NGOs dedicated to protecting workers’ rights and improving working conditions.
I have not read H&M’s entire CSR report, but what I have looked at seems pretty transparent. They seem open about improvements they would like to make and obstacles to those improvements. I encourage you to read not only their report, but also look into all of the companies you will be purchasing from, as I did here. (By the way, I never did hear back from the company in that post and have not bought any of their shoes.)
For transparency on a personal level, I have never bought anything from H&M. However, just as with Wal-Mart, Nike and Levi’s, I do not have a problem with the company supporting the organic cotton market by either launching specific lines or blending the cotton across their lines. The volume that these companies produce and sell make it a significant contribution. I also feel that, for many people, eco-fashion is in a limiting price point, so I support diversity within the sustainable apparel marketplace, not only in style, but also in price. To me this is a sign of true growth in the industry. I have supported the industry by buying organic cotton items from smaller companies, but I also will not have a problem sending a message to H&M by having my first purchase at their store be from this line.