Photo by Olia Gozha/Unsplash

H&M and the World Wildlife Fund are embarking on a five-year partnership to create a more responsible fashion industry. The new endeavor, which expands upon previous efforts to minimize the Swedish retailer’s water footprint, will include climate action, water stewardship, and a “strategic dialogue” that explores the broader sustainability challenges facing the industry. “Together, we are taking a holistic and science-based approach that aims to break new ground within sustainability and fashion,” Mariann Eriksson, marketing director at WWF, said in a statement. “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.”

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H&M and WWF first came together in 2013 to promote water awareness among its staff, as well as improve responsible water use throughout the apparel company’s supply chain. The collaboration also brought together suppliers, employees, policy makers, and other business, civil, and political stakeholders to contribute to more sustainable water management in the Yangtze in China and the Ganges-Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.

The new initiative will see H&M and WWF continue their work with those river basins, with an increased focus on collective stakeholder engagement, particularly with larger platforms such as the CEO Water Mandate, the Better Cotton Initiative and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

On the climate front, H&M and WWF will work with suppliers, customers, and policy makers to further reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in H&M’s supply chain. With WWF’s help, the world’s second-largest fashion company will set a new climate strategy, complete with measurable targets, to be unveiled in late 2016.

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Because H&M is a leading player in the fashion industry, it’s well-situated to influence suppliers, customers, and other brands to become more sustainable, according to WWF.

Whether “fast fashion,” its wobbly labor issues, and the avid promotion of overconsumption can truly be “sustainable” remains to be seen. (The last is a major contributor of environmental pollution, after all.)

WWF appears hopeful, however, that the creation of a strategic dialogue will not only support H&M in its journey toward a circular economy, but it’ll also encourage the rest of the fashion industry to do the same.

All efforts in the new partnership, H&M and WWF say, will align with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“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, sustainability business expert, climate and water, at H&M. “The partnership will showcase to other companies that taking on sustainable business practices is fundamental for future business success.”

+ H&M

+ World Wildlife Fund