Clothes recycling from H&M, millennials’ values and corporate trust
Swedish fashion retailer H&M has launched a line of recycled denim clothing made from discarded garments dropped off at its stores. The collection programme was started in February 2013 in cooperation with the I:CO initiative. As an incentive, customers have been offered money-off vouchers for new products when they deposit their old clothes.
The new denim collection is part of H&M’s plan to “close the loop”. The company also makes a small donation to charity for every kilogram of used clothing it amasses. According to the company’s CharityStar website, H&M has collected nearly 3.5m kg of clothing so far, with shoppers in Germany, Italy and Japan being most eager to empty their wardrobes.
Millennials – people born between 1980 and 2000 – have a different set of workplace values from their more profit-driven elders, according to a survey by Deloitte. Millennials believe overwhelmingly that innovation is the key to business growth, and that corporate success cannot be judged on the basis of profits alone, with only 35% considering the purpose of business to be to generate profit.
The main challenges millennials in business expect to face are resource scarcity, inflation and ageing populations. Although most millennials (60%) say they work for innovative companies, in some countries there are gaps between aspirations and the extent to which innovation is fostered in reality, leaving millennials potentially frustrated. The biggest gaps exist in Australia, France, South Africa and South Korea, Deloitte says.
The US arm of a non-profit group linked to the paper industry is claiming success in a campaign to persuade top companies to drop claims about the environmental benefits of electronic billing and paperless e-services rather than using paper. Two Sides says it had persuaded 20 “primarily top Fortune 500 organisations in the banking, utilities and telecommunications sectors” to “put an end to unsubstantiated and misleading claims” about going electronic.
Trees are “a renewable resource that is continuously replenished using sustainable forest management practices” and companies make claims about minimising paper without really examining the environmental issues, Two Sides says. The group did not name the 20 companies. “Rather than call these respected companies out publicly with greenwashing complaints, we are working with them one-on-one to achieve a resolution,” it says.
Trust me, I’m a corporation
The proportion of people saying that they trust corporations appears to have stabilised at about 58%, according to the 14th annual Trust Barometer from PR consultants Edelman. High trust levels of 70% or more are seen in emerging markets including China, India, Indonesia and Mexico, though consumers there tend to trust foreign corporations from countries such as Germany and Sweden rather than home-grown brands. Developed economies are much more cynical about business, with trust scores of only 43% in France, 41% in Ireland and 38% in Spain. The most trusted sectors are technology and automotive, while the least trusted are media and banks. In line with previous Edelman results, NGOs are more trusted than businesses, scoring 64%. But trust in government has plunged – only 44% of those surveyed think they can rely on their political leaders.
Trouble in the suburbs
Suburban households are letting cities down when it comes to environmental sustainability. Research from the University of California, Berkeley has shown that although high population densities in urban areas can cut the per-household environmental footprint to 50% of the average, in the suburbs, it can be 200% of the average. Consequently, any emission savings from urban clustering are wiped out by the suburbs.
Researchers mapped the 31,000 US zip codes according to their annual household carbon footprints, finding that, for example, a household in Manhattan on average produces 32 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, but on the other side of the Hudson River, in leafy Bergen County, New Jersey, the footprint is 80 tonnes. The main contributor to higher suburban emissions is transport. Daniel Kammen of the University of California says the detailed breakdown should stimulate “highly tailored climate action plans” for communities.
Clothing brands including Adidas and Burberry have found themselves on the wrong side of a Greenpeace campaign following the recent publication of a report finding toxic chemicals in their products. The campaign group tested clothing, including children’s garments, from 12 brands and found that none were entirely toxics-free. An Adidas swimsuit and a Primark child’s T-shirt had particularly high levels of hazardous substances. Other brands facing a Greenpeace “digital mobilisation” include American Apparel and Disney. The companies should join those that have already “committed to detox”, says Greenpeace campaigner Chih An Lee.
Must do more
The sustainability initiatives started by large listed companies are increasingly producing diminishing returns, the GreenBiz.com business intelligence group has found in its latest State of Green Business report, published in January. GreenBiz executive editor Joel Makower says there was little meaningful progress to show for companies’ green efforts. “Company initiatives are not having an impact at the scale needed to address such challenges as climate change and the availability of water and natural resources.”
Instead, companies need to change their business models so that they “decouple” their expansion from environmental degradation. According to the report, some companies, including Intel, Kimberly-Clark and Verizon are “decoupling leaders”, while others including Adobe, Amec and Ford are sustainable only in a relative sense – compared with their sector peers.
The US armed services are leading a charge towards energy efficiency and deployment of clean energy, according to research by the Washington DC based Pew Charitable Trust. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of energy-saving projects at military installations more than doubled from 630 to 1,339 while the number of renewable energy projects increased from 454 to 700.
Renewable energy generation on US bases could rise to 2.1 gigawatts by 2018. The move towards energy efficiency and renewables is designed to help the US military secure its power supplies, save money and meet objectives set for it by the government. Pew’s Phyllis Cuttino called it a win-win-win situation. “The military gets better energy infrastructure, taxpayer dollars are saved and the clean energy industry is finding new market opportunities,” she says.Adidas corporate trust Greenpeace H&M recycling Sustainability news sustainable clothes
May 2014, London, UK
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