Jill Danyelle

H&M GOES ORGANIC

by , 03/04/07

H&M Goes Organic, H&M Organic Cotton Line, Sustainable Style Sunday, EcoFashion, green fashion, eco fashion, eco fashion retailer

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.


”These clothes are great pieces of the moment. They combine a conscious choice of materials with the latest design, allowing you to look just as good on the outside as you feel on the inside.”, says H&M’s head of design Margareta van den Bosch. The colors are vegetable-dye-inspired and the price is right.

Addendum:

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.

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12 Comments

  1. cjames August 7, 2011 at 1:54 am

    Hi I work for H&M and you are being fooled I dare you to get your “organic cotton” products tested you will find they are not Organic and also for the Child labor topic yes they do have child labor the company made a little video about their code of conduct for us employees to watch and it surely contradicts itself after stating in the video that they comply with other countries labor laws so…. in theory if the legal age is 15 ( like india ) or 16 ( like in china ) somewhere then its fine but back to the video… they had these children on the video that didnt speak a word they just were running around free on the video and standing and posing for the camera looking at it like wth is that and they looked like they were all dressed up in our clothing that we make basically the little video was propaganda to shove down our throats trust me the company is nothing but bad news they have this H&M values system that the company supposedly stands for and one of the companies values is ” we believe in people ” did you know that if you have a bad credit score you cannot move up in the company? yes they do a credit check not a criminal check… so basically “we believe in people” company value should be named : we believe in people who have good credit to be moved up in the company so if you have a huge amount of management experience or excessive retail past but bad credit … you sir or mam are discredited you are liable to steal… also another value that the company stands by is entrepreneur spirit which well that goes hand in hand with the last value you can drive your own success as much as you like but having a bad credit will keep you behind… in the real business world that isnt a issue look at donald trump… filed for bankruptcy many years ago that messes a credit up terribly but anyways its not about the employees that work at H&M im off key right now… my point is do not trust the snakes… http://www.ecouterre.com/hm-other-brands-guilty-of-organic-cotton-fraud/ <—- this is 2010 article… I hope you know this is a very organized illuminati company turning their employees into robots and slaves ( did you know the employees have a quota for how many totes of clothing is suppose to be taken from the totes and onto the tables to be tagged and hanged? 1000 pieces of clothing an hour is the quota tell me thats not slave labor… 15 totes an hour… and you have 100 totes to do and only 2 people to do it… )

  2. sazu February 2, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I would be incredibly skeptical of any “green” claims H&M make. I read a report which only went up to 2003 but at that point they weren’t even letting workers in the *USA* form unions, let alone treating them well in Asia. Having made lots of visits doesn’t mean anything’s actually improved for workers; when they have submitted reports on what they’re doing they’re always criticised for having gaping holes in their information which they conveniently blame on IT problems, and complying with laws in native countries, even if they did that, most definitely does *not* assure that their workers are treated well – laws in most places are biased in favour of multinational companies in order to attract their business.

    Fancy them saying they “convinced” the family the child was better off in school! I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous. If the family could afford to send the child to school its obvious they would have. It’s nice of them to pay a fee to the family (did that fee even cover the cost of the child’s schooling?) but what about all the other families that would love to do the same? As greenwash goes, paying a tiny monthly fee to one family to send the child to school is a pretty cheap way of doing it.

    I’d love to think H&M cared about more than just the bottom line as I love the clothes, but all the evidence I’ve found so far suggests their one of the worst offenders and just a little better at covering it up than most. If not, they’d at least be able to manage *some* external verification.

  3. tim February 19, 2008 at 1:41 am

    the path of a thousand miles begins with one step

  4. jean November 11, 2007 at 10:48 am

    Engineering consent is not a good thing. Treating humans as consumers is an unfortunate by-product of the capitalist machine. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to ignore our neighbors, we don’t have to look just like them, we don’t have to obsess over ourselves, and we don’t have to put them out of business or make ourselves happy by possessing more and more things from foreign lands.

    What a terrifying thing for many a corporation should people become content with what they have, to know that they have all that they need, to no longer think themselves ugly, uncool, unfit, unclean, unhappy. The fear would be that we stop buying. And the machine would stop. And we could stop. And I wouldn’t have to see the ugly neon lights that block out the stars.

  5. Erika April 24, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    If you think critically about H&M’ so-called “corporate responsibility” statement, you can see that it is deeply flawed. In this statement, H&M says that they will make sure all local laws are followed. This is like saying Saddam Hussein was just fine and dandy because he followed all local laws. The problem is that there are NO laws protecting labor rights, or even basic human rights, in many of these Asian countries. So following local laws means nothing.

    Slavery and child labor are essentially legal in many of these countries, and slavery around the world is alive and well in 2007 because so many companies are refusing to take responsibility for their role in exploiting workers who have no rights. I would also point to FLA Watch, http://www.flawatch.org/welcome.htm, which demonstrates that this organization, FLA, does little more than provide public relations cover for companies who use sweatshop labor.

    I have never set foot in an H&M store and never will until they get a seal of approval from Sweatshop Watch or a similar organization.

  6. Ann March 31, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    I think anyone taking a positive step up is great… not perfection yet, but better something then nothing!

  7. Mar March 5, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    You don’t have to look too far actually. People living just 90 miles south of Florida would be THRILLED to make $10 per day working at a factory….considering that a doctor’s salary is about $20 per month… and he/she often has no option than to go clean hotel rooms, or drive a cab, in hopes of receiving anything but worthless pesos.

  8. Rosie March 5, 2007 at 7:39 am

    Jill thanks for putting everyone else right regarding labour in the third world. People who have never been there will never understand the conditions that people live in and $10 a day is a kings ransom for many. H&M can keep their products cheaper than some because they order huge quantities of every style thus keeping the factories and labour in those factories in work on a regular basis. If you don’t buy these products these people won’t eat, go to school, have clean drinking water, pay for illness, look after their older family members etc let alone own an organic cotton teeshirt.

    Take a trip to Uganda, China, India, Sri Lanka and find out for yourselves before condemning companies offering good labour conditions and stable jobs to all these people who need them and choose them, in order to survive.

  9. Jill Fehrenbacher Jill March 4, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    Thanks Victoria for taking the time to research this and provide thoughtful commentary. I think too often people (and commenters on this site, particularly), are really quick to rush to condemn companies that they know nothing about.

    To Ted – If you have evidence that H&M abuses workers in their factories, we’d love to hear it. But to assume that H&M engages in suspect manufacturing practices without doing any research, or without having any evidence to back up your claim, is dangerous. Just because a company manufactures goods in developing countries where labor costs are cheaper, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is exploiting its workers or engage in suspect practices. Many companies working overseas in this day and age make a pointed effort to engage in socially responsible business and bring economic opportunities to the countries in which they work, because they know people are watching them and it helps their brand.

    To Juha- If you are from a small rural village where there is no work to come by, and the only economic opportunities for unskilled young people agricultural work, prostitution, and factory work, – you can bet that working for $10 a day in a factory is probably pretty appealing. Factory workers choose their jobs – and usually work in factory because those jobs provide the most economic opportunity. I’m not saying that every factory is a great place to work, but H&M has gotten consistently high marks for implementing high standards of worker safety and welfare at their factories:

    “Child labor is a frequently covered subject within the company, along with other strict regulations for safety, worker’s rights, factory, housing, and the environment. H&M reports that unannounced visits are made, often by a third-party organization, to ensure all policies are being followed.”

    -Jill

  10. Victoria E March 4, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    Actually, H&M is completely against sweatshops, despite another of other “affordable” brand. I wrote an entire post about this recently: http://groovygreen.com/groove/?p=898

  11. Juha March 4, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    I’m guessing the $10 a day chinese workers are delighted.

  12. ted March 4, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    They’re probably affordable because they’re most likely made in sweatshops overseas. Long-range shipping is hardly sustainable, and sweatshop labor is not sustainable (or ethical)… so a bit of greenwashing is nice, but they’re still getting a failing grade. If you have info on their labor practices that would be great, I really think that sort of thing should be part of your reporting practice.

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