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H&M CEO fears impact of 'eco-shaming' on emerging economies

Published
today Oct 28, 2019
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Sustainability may be increasingly figuring in consumers' buying decisions, but some executives in the fashion retail industry are worried that the process of ‘eco-shaming’ could have negative consequences for workers in some parts of the world.


H&M has a number of initiatives to boost sustainability - COS


In an interview with Bloomberg, H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson said protests and campaigns that encourage consumers to “stop doing things, stop consuming, stop flying” and more “may lead to a small environmental impact, but it will have terrible social consequences.”

The fashion sector is very much in the sights of eco campaigners on multiple levels given its oft-repeated status as being responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its other major issues. 

But while campaigns in the past have been about subjects like cutting out the use of fur, improving factory conditions and boosting the use of sustainable textiles, this year has seen a shift. Campaigns against air travel and others encouraging consumers not to buy new fashion product at certain times could not only undermine fast fashion but have damaging effects in some countries.

“The climate issue is incredibly important,” Persson said. “It's a huge threat and we all need to take it seriously — politicians, companies, individuals. At the same time, the elimination of poverty is a goal that's at least as important.”

H&M has been a leader among fast fashion firms in adding sustainability initiatives but Persson said that while “we must reduce the environmental impact, at the same time, we must also continue to create jobs, get better healthcare and all the things that come with economic growth.”

He also said his big aim is to continue to develop “environmental innovation, renewable energy, improved materials.” H&M has already dived deep into this area with programs boosting solar panels for factories, research looking into how to make recycled materials as eco-friendly as possible and using sustainable fabrics based on raw materials like citrus peel and fishing nets.

The company intends to be climate positive by 2040 and is already one of the world's biggest users of organic and recycled cotton.

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