Challenges in our value chain

H&M Conscious addresses impacts, opportunities and challenges where they occur along our entire value chain. For those that are most closely related to our own operations, we have the ability to directly influence the impacts we have. For others, we make a difference, for example, by choosing conscious raw materials or like-minded partners and by collaborating with others.


Sustainability starts at the drawing board. We need to create sustainable fashion without compromising on style, design, quality or price. Not only minimising what ends up on the cutting floor, but also knowing how our choice of materials and looks impact the environment and the people around us.

Raw materials

Processing raw materials such as cotton is a part of the value chain that is often associated with concerns for working conditions and intense water and chemical use. By making the right choices at this stage, we can reduce such impacts significantly. Ultimately, we achieve a closed loop in which old garments can be recycled into new ones.

Fabric and yarn production

From making yarn to final fabrics, there are concerns regarding water, chemicals and working conditions as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Generally speaking, we do not have direct business relationships with mills but we work with organisations such as Solidaridad and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to help mills improve their performance. We have started to integrate the fabric and yarn mills that are involved in making about 50% of our products into our supplier audit system, aiming for 60% by 2016.

Garment production

Together with our suppliers we have made great improvements in developing high social and environmental standards. Achieving fair living wages, reducing overtime and ensuring workplace safety are key focus areas for the industry. To address these issues, we use our influence on our business partners to promote human rights. We don’t only monitor factory compliance but also train our suppliers and their workers. We want to encourage industrial relations and social dialogue and consequently collaborate with organisations such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Fair Wage Network and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).


Transport represents approximately 6% of the greenhouse gas emissions in a garment’s lifecycle. By choosing the right modes of transport, we can reduce this impact even further. And as an important customer to the transport companies we work with, we can set standards to influence their environmental consciousness. 


We have over 4,135 stores across 65 countries. As we grow, enter new markets and employ new people, we need to make sure that we live up to our values across the organisation and ensure an inspiring and healthy working environment for our colleagues. Our customers rightfully expect high quality products and shopping experiences. As part of that, we ensure the data privacy of our customers and our colleagues, and advertise in a responsible way.



Caring for our clothes at home represents about 26% of all of the greenhouse gas emissions in a garment’s life. Our challenge is to create affordable fashion that our customers will love from season to season and that is easy to care for with the lowest possible impact. We need to inspire our customers to be more conscious in the way they care for their clothes, for example as regards washing and drying, and make it easy and effortless to recycle any garment that might no longer be wanted.


Climate and water impacts are based on the estimated H&M value chain footprint from our total use of cotton, organic cotton, polyester and viscose in 2011/2012. For the footprint analysis, primary and secondary data has been used and the principles of LCA-methodology has been applied. The remaining 5% climate impacts result from packaging. The water footprint is based on the Water Footprint Network's methodology and includes green, blue and grey water footprint. Deviation from 100% due to rounding effects.

For more information about our social impact, see the "How we report" section and the description of our salient human rights issues.

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