H&M is making impressive strides against its own sustainability targets, but how long can it keep growing and its customers keep buying more clothes?
H&M is one of those juggernaut corporations right now, economically unstoppable and mostly a media darling. Established in Sweden in 1947 as a women’s retail store called Hennes (meaning “hers” in English), it added the Mauritz in the 1950s with the acquisition of a men’s outdoor line. The company now includes a growing stable of brands: COS, Monki, Weekday, Cheap Monday and the latest addition called Other Stories. Embracing the fast-fashion model, the company has enjoyed tremendous growth such that it is now difficult to escape the big red H&M on stores in large cities of the world.
Over the 12 years that H&M has put out sustainability reports, it has certainly become more fashion-conscious about its reporting style. The first report was a no-frills affair that included a rudimentary code of conduct for suppliers, and GHG emissions reporting. In comparison, the 2013 Conscious Actions report looks and reads more like a 92-page fashion magazine – carefully curated photos, lots of achievement factoids, and short and snappy narrative.
This is not to say there’s no substance. In 2013, H&M follows the same format as it did for its 2012 report, detailing its “Conscious Actions” through the company’s seven core commitments: to...