Well if you haven’t heard by now H&M is moving towards sustainability. I’m not writing this to hate on H&M, but to simply explain why I prefer not to shop with them. I’ve procrastinated writing about H&M’s sustainability push for a few reasons.
I DO think it is important that large companies like H&M to move towards social and environmental sustainability. And I think it’s good they’re doing something even if they have a way to go.
I understand it takes large companies time to transition their supply chain to be ethical and sustainable on such a large scale.
I try to focus on the positives and support companies that are trying to take positive steps, but I struggle with H&M’s motives.
BUT after a few of my friends asking if I’ll shop at H&M now that they’re “sustainable,” I’ve decided to write. So here are my thoughts and why I personally do not shop at H&M. I have read parts of H&M’s Sustainability Report which helped me come to the conclusions below.
The Business Model Does Not Support Sustainability
You have to understand that H&M’s business model relies on consumers viewing clothes as disposable. The mass production and pushing out clothes for 52 micro fashion seasons is not good for the environment. It does not encourage consumers to value what they have, but instead to throw it out and buy the next best thing. These fast fashion, disposable clothing based business types are harmful to the planet.
The Quality of the Products
Going off of my previous point….H&M doesn’t exactly focus on quality, but more so focuses on quantity. The products I purchased from them in my high school days would easily start to fall apart after a few washes, encouraging consumers to dispose of the garment and purchase something new. Personally, I like to invest in quality products that are crafted to last. And while it may feel as though you’re saving money by purchasing these cheap garments…..think about how long they’ll last? You’ll have to replace them sooner than if you spent a bit of extra money investing in a quality garment that would last.
Personally, I prefer to support brands who have good ethics & sustainability in the core of their companies….meaning they started out valuing people and the planet. I struggle to support companies that might be jumping on board because sustainable fashion is becoming trendy, not because they truly care about the impact. For example those clothing recycle bins H&M has…..I personally think they’re an advertising scheme to encourage consumers to spend more money. H&M takes your old clothes and give you a coupon to purchase more of their disposable clothing. And what happens to those old clothes? CBC reports “Of all of the material used to make its (H&M’s) estimated half a billion garments a year, only 0.7 per cent is recycled material.” The state of the garment, fibers, and other conditions of the donated item effect if/how a garment can actually be broken down and “recycled.”
The Numbers Don’t Add Up
Along with sustainability I value people….and I’m not so sure the people behind H&M’s clothes are getting paid a livable wage if they’re selling their shirts for $5. I read the Modern Day Slavery Statement in their sustainability report. In this statement they do address modern day slavery and how they do not tolerate forced or child labor, but I did not see too much regarding livable wages. Or what H&M considers a livable wage? There are a few mentions, but there is more focus on “fair jobs,” “fair wages,” and how livable wages must be industry wide and a call to government action. In the sustainability report there are numbers in their sustainability report showing that H&M pays above minimum wage, but is this a wage people are able to live off of? As consumers we have to question the difference between a fair wage and a livable wage.
A fair wage could be considered fair based on what other fast fashion factories are paying their garment workers, but does that “fair wage” actually allow workers to feed themselves, get housing, etc.? AND just because somebody chooses to work in a garment factory doesn’t mean they are being treated with respect at the factory. We have to question how involved is H&M in monitoring the way garment workers are treated? Are they able to make regular factory visits and confirm that there is not child labor or mistreatment of workers? This is a common theme we see with big name brands. They have a beautiful corporate social responsibility policy on their websites, but do not actually carry out those values in their supply chain. So we have to ask, what is H&M doing to ensure their partner factories are fair, ethical, and sustainable? They partner with over 2,000 factories….thats a lot to manage. I encourage you to watch The True Cost to learn more about this.
Shopping Small is Important to Me
I LOVE to know who I’m buying from and support small businesses. As a small business owner, I know the struggle of budgeting, having less resources, and trying to compete with the larger brands. So shopping small and supporting small businesses that share my values is important to me!
I’m glad to see H&M is taking some steps in the right direction. Like I said it is important for large companies to make their supply chains ethical and sustainable. But at this point in time I still choose not to shop with H&M.