CEO message

Message from our CEO

The H&M group makes affordable, good-quality and sustainable fashion available for many people, regardless of their income or where they live – that is our passion and our everyday work.

We believe sustainable fashion should be available for everyone. The idea is that people who enjoy fashion should be equally able to dress sustainably. However, to be able to continue to offer sustainable fashion to present and future generations in a world with growing populations and finite resources, both the H&M group and the industry must look for new ways of working. That is why we are taking a circular approach to how fashion is made and used. That includes a more effective use of resources, support of innovations within recycling technologies as well as an increased use of existing or new sustainable materials. Our ongoing work to contribute to good working conditions for the people making our products is just as important.

Investing in sustainability issues such as these is a business opportunity – and vital for our future business success. But also, as stated in international guidelines such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, it’s part of our responsibility as a company. Corporations have a big responsibility to act in a way that helps to drive change, making their business economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

Our sustainability work is built on three foundations. First, it’s integrated into all parts of the business – in every single department and function and in all brands and markets. Sustainability is part of our company’s DNA and values. Secondly, we are convinced that a long-term way of working is the only way forward. As a result, we always take a long-term view instead of choosing short-term solutions that don’t lead to lasting change. Finally, we have a collaborative mindset. As many of the challenges we are facing are systemic and industry-wide, we need to work with others. Our collaboration with brands, trade unions, NGOs, experts and scientists, business partners and civil society will continue – no matter if it’s about recycling innovations, new sustainable materials or the work to improve working conditions for the people making our clothes.

This is why we very much welcome the collaborative focus within the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the SDG Agenda. Through our continued commitment to the United Nations Global Compact, we take shared responsibility for achieving positive change. Our sustainability priorities are aligned with the SDGs and aim to mobilise efforts to end poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. The SDG Agenda provides a good framework when designing strategies going forward and finding new collaborations.

We contribute to several of the SDGs, for example, through our circular approach and efforts to close the loop on textiles (SDG 12). We are a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 to help accelerate the transition from a linear to a circular economy. From a sustainability perspective, this transition is necessary. However, it requires more effective use of resources as well as innovations within recycling and materials. Garment collecting in our stores is one step on our circularity journey, inviting our customers to become part of the solution and help expand the lifespan of garments and increase reuse or recycling of materials. The Global Change Award innovation challenge, initiated by the H&M Foundation in 2015, is another way of speeding up the development. It aims to find new ideas to help close the loop on textiles. Because technology and innovations are key to reaching our vision of becoming circular, we are supporting this development through both investments and knowledge.

Our efforts to improve working conditions in the countries where our products are made is also in line with the SDG Agenda (SDG 8). We are committed to focusing our efforts on creating a well-functioning dialogue in the labour market since this is a precondition for achieving lasting improvements in working conditions for people. We are working to promote a dialogue where freedom of association is respected, where workers’ representatives have a voice and where trade unions can negotiate and bargain collectively. These issues are also central in several of our collaborations, for example, within the Global Framework Agreement with IndustriALL and IF Metall which was converted into a permanent partnership in 2016.

The H&M group wants to contribute to structures and frameworks, to inspire, educate and bring the best from the Swedish labour market to countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia – but we will not be able to push development on our own. The countries and the people living there should be in charge –but obviously with support from the H&M group and many others who want to continue their commitment in these countries in the long term. It has always been important for us to act in a way that makes it possible not just for present but also future generations to enjoy fashion. However, along with the rest of the industry, we still have a long way to go.

It is now time to lift our ambitions and push the boundaries again. I’m convinced that our new sustainability strategy presented in this report will take us closer towards our vision: to lead the change towards circular and renewable fashion while being a fair and equal company.

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