How ethical and sustainable is H&M? For the multinational clothing retail company, answering this question has been a challenge. From degrading factory conditions to offensive publicity stunts, the corporation has made sweeping changes to its infrastructure and is intent on rebranding itself as an ethically sustainable company capable of positive change in the clothing industry.
H&M started 2019 with a pledge to become 100% climate positive by 2040, using only renewable energy in all its second-tier operations. Additionally, it has pledged to be climate neutral by 2030, which includes only using 100% sustainable or recycled materials in its clothing. These eco-friendly goals are big wins for the company, but customers are skeptical in light of failed promises in the past.
The company was criticized in 2018 for startling reports of female garment workers being abused in H&M supply factories and its failure to pay living wages to 850,000 workers by that year, a promise made earlier in 2013. Prominent labor problems are climaxed by reports of the company burning $4.3 billion worth of unsold clothes every year.
Although the Swedish company continues to initiate significant sustainability efforts, the problem lies in the broader umbrella of fast fashion. Massive changes have to be made in the clothing industry to maintain ethical and sustainable standards while avoiding wasteful production of clothing, and H&M is still on its journey to achieving that.