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H&M are playing tricks with their figures in the sustainability reports


Global brands sustainability reports

One of the biggest fast fashion chains throughout the world decided long ago to go sustainable; however, what is facts and what is fiction? Over the last months, I see large corporations use millions of $ in ads and PR to tell the world how good they are regarding company responsibilities, ethical trade, environment-friendly garments; the list goes on. In my opinions are; when companies use a sizeable budget to tell the world how good, they are, they usually have low self-stem or something they do not want people to know of.

All major players in the fashion world seem to get on the sustainable bandwagon these days; from Nike, Puma, Zara, Levi’s and H&M, some do it without screaming loud while others see the green wave as an opportunity to turn it into a big marketing campaign. Remember it is not a competition to save the environment. However, reading through the corporate responsibility and sustainability reports what comes to mind is how the companies use not only a lot of money but how they choose to present their figures. Nike and Levi’s seem to be the most honest and objective. Their report contains clear and understandable figures and facts regarding how much energy their products use, how much saving is done and the future estimated and forecasted plans. Their goal seems sober and targets reachable. For example, The Product Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) study of Levi Strauss Copresented of high selling volume Jean 501 is very correctly presented and easy to understand.


Product Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) study Levi Strauss Co One

Product Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) study by Levi Strauss Co Two



Nike, Inc.’s water footprint

Nike Inc. Corporate Responsibility Report is also very well presented and gives a clear overview of the facts and figures. I believe Nike has learned a lot from their history as the brand that created the term sweatshops in the late 90’s. It is comprehensive; however, all facts put upon the table. For example, presenting Nike, Inc.’s water footprint, they track all figures, not only what saved.


H&M conscious actions sustainability reports

One of the largest clothing companies around the world except for Inditex (Zara) is H&M. H&M has 2900 stores operating in 45 markets with an extremely aggressive growth strategy of 10-15% new doors each year. They scream loudest of all the brands about their ability to do well for our planet and H&M gain massive PR from it. Since they are screaming loud, they probably have taken into considerations that if they get caught in any scandal, they will fall hard. However, is everything as great as it looks? When reading through their conscious actions sustainability reports it seems a long way from when the green activist sold buttons to save the whales; in fact, it looks at like sunshine saving Earth’s environment. When reading I get an urgent desire to go shopping and not saving and maybe that is the exactly the point?

The save of water in reality

H&M starts with presenting their seven commitments which are great, nevertheless, when looking into and analyze their figures I see that H&M has to my dislike presented their figures without having anything to compare them with. They have wrapped them nicely and airbrushed. For example, stated on page 74; “commitments six use natural resources responsibly,” “almost 78 million bathtubs of water saved through our use of Better Cotton in 2012 alone.” That sounds a lot, nevertheless, what are you saving against? Continue Page 93;”provide fashion for conscious customers; environmental impact of a T-shirts throughout its life cycle, water use of a T-shirts 4. 34m3. What is the water footprint?

Why is suddenly H&M using another metric system presenting the figures? Can it be to hide the life cycle of a low-quality T-shirt from their own line uses 4340 liters of water or 55 bathtubs? Almost throughout the entire report, this seems to be the way of making their numbers and fact more appealing that they are. Let’s make another example page 9, conscious actions highlight from 2012; 450 million liters of water saved for the production of denim and other water-intense products, again.

What was the total amount of water used for the process, how many percents saved? Page 74; “about 140.000 Kg of pesticides fewer used due to our use of more sustainable cotton,” sure it sounds fantastic but of what? I happen to know that it takes approximately 30 grams of pesticides for one T-shirt alone so If H&M gives me their total sales of tees I might be able to find out how many chemicals H&M are accountable for together with the rest on the water that is missing in EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme).

Quoted; “H&M’s growth target remains intact. The growth target is to increase the number of stores by 10-15 percent per annum with continued high profitability, while at the same time increasing sales in comparable units. For the financial year 2012/2013, a net addition of approximately 325 new stores is planned. Most of the brand new stores during 2013 are planned to open in China and the US”. Shareholder Information. H&M growth rate strategy will give them the following new stores (when 12% growth per annum is used) from 2013, -2020 when they are using 100% more sustainable fabrics.

Organic cotton prices vs. conventional cotton in the future?

Organic cotton is more expensive than conventional cotton and since the demand is increasing for Eco cotton, the price will rise. Today Eco cotton is approximately 30% more costly transportation wills the most certain rise in the future, what will then happens to H&M business model? Finally, is it sober to believe that H&M will reach their mission of 100% to use only organic and recycled cotton by 2020 at the latest? H&M quoted:” we are right on track to meet our target 2020 at its latest”. I believe to think this an unrealistic goal.

Ideas and research to lower the negative impact clothing does on the environment

  • Reuse clothing: extend the average lives of clothes (by just three months of active use) will reduce waste, water and carbon footprint by 5-10%. Extend for extra 9-12 months will increase savings on the carbon footprint by 20-30%
  • Offering good secondhand clothing, best distribution and better range of used clothes will make more consumers buy into the second-hand concept
  • Repair of clothing locally is a business opportunity
  • Fashion upgrades by repair and services for remake and transform is a business opportunity.
  • Increase clothing quality on brand and retail level
  • Educate the consumers in the caretaking of clothing
  • Increase textile collected for reuse and recycling.
  • Promote a buy less and increase emphasis on durable styles
  • Retailers to take back clothing for recycling or remake locally
  • Rent of clothing
  • Swap clothing
  • Donate clothing

Governmental Actions

  • Taxes on new clothing production
  • Quality testing
  • No VAT on repairing services or secondhand retailing
  • Improve washing instructions. Wash less and lower temperature. Stop using the dryer.

Is it really need for so many new clothes on the market?

Do not forget that H&M promote and sell fast fashion. Since H&M promote and sell fast fashion garment with lower quality the consumers buy more clothes but less durable, which demand a higher turnover of their wardrobe, including a heavy rotation of new products in/out of the stores, they actually create a much larger problem than people know while buying into a fast fashion culture which they represent. If H&M want to do what they preach they can begin with lower the production of brand new clothes and replace some with the gigantic mountain of used clothes existing, then we can talk about a new business model where Earth represented in the H&M board.

Why not open second-hand in stores, become the brand that changed the world and not just another brand with new wrapping and same shit. Finally, this post is written because I know H&M can do better. Nevertheless, one of the finest qualities in life is honesty to speak the truth and the truth. So what is really so good about H&M strategy to continuously pump more garments into the market? Let me know.


T-shirt and use of water
  • T-shirt uses approximately 2650 liter of water to make and according to H&M, one of their T-shirts uses in entire life cycle use 4. 34m3 which is 4 340 (1143 gallons) liter of water or more than 54 bathtubs (a bathtub uses 80 liters of water). 1 kg of T-shirts use 18500 liters (4900 gallons)
  • Or 231 bathtubs, the figure used is 2650 as this is the figure is without what the consumer use in its entire life cycle.
  • H&M mix metrics.
  • Making it easier to understand as H&M uses the metric m3 on T-shirt water usage, however, uses other metrics pages in the report as bathtub and liter. H&M understand that most people do not have a relationship with m3 as metrics instead of using liters and 4340 liters of water sound a lot more.
  • H&M turnover in 2012
    1208 million SEK or million, H&M has 2900 stores and an average turnover per store approximately 41 million SEC or million. Estimate that a garment price in store is 200 SEK or (not perfume, etc.)
  • Cotton kg
    When estimated the number of kg cotton per store is 29750 kg or in tons 29.75. 2900 stores give 86275 tons.
  • Water use
    One ton of T-shirt cotton is 18 550 000 liters (4 900 000 gallons) or 18550m3 water. 86275 tons x 18550000 give 1 600 401 250 000 liters (422 700 000 000 gallons) or 20 000 000 000 bathtubs.
  • Saving of water
    78 000 000 bathtubs been saved by H&H which are 0.39% saved.

* All figures estimated and calculated with the information provided in figures taken from sustainability reports, company earnings, life cycle assessment studies etc so differences from other calculations might not be precise.


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