What is environmental and social responsibility at H&M?

At H&M, we like to think of sustainability as a word of action, something we do rather than something we simply say. It is an ongoing process and has a clear aim to be continuously improved. We see sustainability as a journey that requires determination, passion and teamwork.

Our vision is that all of our operations should be run in a way that is financially, socially and environmentally sustainable. Turning this vision into a reality helps us conduct our business using fewer resources. It also allows us to contribute to improving the lives of people and communities around the world. Today we are involved in various projects and initiatives related to these issues. More information is available at: hm.com/conscious

H&M strives to reduce textile waste – So we initiated Garment Collecting

Instead of throwing old or unwanted garments away, you can bring these to the H&M Store, and we will give it a new life. In this way we work together to prevent textiles ending up in landfills and at the same time closing the textile loop. Want to know more, please check out:

What is Garment Collecting?
How garment collecting works

Is it possible to buy clothes produced with a limited environmental impact at a reasonable price?

H&M’s business concept is to offer fashion and quality at the best price. We achieve this by buying directly from the manufacturers, utilizing efficient logistics and operating our own stores – not by compromising on our sustainability requirements. We are also cost-conscious at every stage of the production process, and the fact is that a cheaper mode of transport – for example, by ship – creates lower carbon dioxide emissions than more expensive means of transport, such as aircraft.

We make efforts to support our suppliers so that production takes into consideration the health of customers and workers and the environment. All suppliers with wet processes such as dyeing or washing are required to treat their wastewater. Wastewater quality in our supply chain must meet quality levels defined by the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Water Group or relevant local laws, whichever are stricter. These requirements form part of our supplier audit program.

Furthermore, we restrict the use of hazardous chemicals via our restrictions list, compliance with which all suppliers are contractually bound. Our Chemical Restrictions list has been continually updated since 1995 and was most recently updated in 2013. In 2013 we also introduced our first "positive lists" to help our suppliers choose chemical products that comply with our restrictions.

So, in H&M’s opinion, there is no conflict of interest between reasonable prices and a low impact on the environment.

How do you ensure that child labor does not occur during production?

H&M’s auditors carry out regular checks to ensure that there are no underage workers in the factories. The occurrence of child labor at H&M's suppliers or their subcontractors is very rare. Should it occur, H&M requires that the supplier take immediate action and, together with H&M and the family, find a solution that is in the best interests of the child. An investigation is then carried out to determine how to best resolve the situation based on the child’s interests.

On many occasions, the solution involves the supplier making financial contributions so that the child can receive an education while compensating the family for the loss of income. If H&M discovers that a supplier – or one of its subcontractors – repeatedly breaches H&M’s ban on child labor, H&M terminates the partnership.

Since 2004 we have been working with UNICEF to protect the rights of some of the poorest children in the world. Today, we reach more than 2 million children and the adults around them in two projects in India and Bangladesh called All for Children. Twenty-five percent of the sales price of our annual All for Children collection and additional donations from H&M fund these projects with contributions totaling around USD 12.5 million to date.

Are H&M cosmetics tested on animals?

No animal testing is carried out on our cosmetics products either during production or on the finished products.

How can you guarantee merino wool products are mulesing-free?

Animal welfare is important to H&M and it does not accept the mistreatment of animals. We distance ourselves from mulesing and only buy from suppliers that guarantee mulesing-free merino wool.

What is H&M's policy regarding fur and leather products?

H&M does not sell real fur. H&M only sells leather from sheep, pigs, goats and cattle that have been bred for meat production, not just for their skin. No other leather is permitted in products sold by H&M.

How do I know where my H&M items were produced?

All products in H&M’s range have the country of origin stated on the label.

How can H&M ensure that H&M products are free from harmful chemicals?

The health and safety of our customers are naturally of highest priority. We work actively to restrict the use of chemicals. Our restrictions are some of the most stringent in the industry and often go well beyond legislative demands. All suppliers making products for H&M are contractually bound to comply with our restrictions list.

We apply the precautionary principle. This means that we are proactive in restricting chemicals, even if there is still scientific uncertainty about whether or not they are harmful. We regularly conduct tests – both our own and via third parties – on our products to ensure that they do not contain harmful chemicals. In 2013 H&M banned perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) from all of our products. We are also part of the Roadmap to Zero, as part of which we strive to achieve zero discharge of hazardous chemicals.

Why are the wages of factory workers so low?

We agree that the wages in some production countries are low. And it has always been our vision that all textile workers should be able to live on their wage. This is also stated in our Code of Conduct.

In November 2013 we developed a new roadmap based on our vision: a fair living wage covering workers’ basic needs should be paid by all our commercial goods suppliers. One important part of this roadmap is that it should be supported by H&M’s purchasing practices. Another is that the workforce should be skilled, and the wages should be negotiated and annually reviewed with the involvement of democratically elected trade unions or worker representatives. Thus, this roadmap provides workers with the tools needed to negotiate their own wage, and we support this process.

It is important to remember that H&M neither owns nor operates the factories that make its products. H&M does not set or pay the factory employees’ wages. Nonetheless, we still have a considerable responsibility to remain engaged in every possible way and to promote higher wages in production countries. Through our holistic wage strategy, we aim to contribute to positive long-term development and higher wages for the factory workers.

How does H&M check that suppliers abide by the Code of Conduct?

We employ full-time auditors whose job it is to check compliance with our Code of Conduct. During audits they go through a list containing over 300 points relating to working conditions, the working environment, etc. After each audit we collate the results in a report that specifies the areas in which improvements are needed and a deadline is set for the supplier to submit an action plan. The auditors then visit the factories to follow up whether these actions have been taken. H&M also supports suppliers’ improvement work through training and projects of various kinds. Read more about our Code of Conduct follow-up.

Why does H&M have its own auditors?

By conducting audits ourselves, we immediately get a comprehensive picture of how well our suppliers comply with our social and environmental requirements, and integrating sustainability work into our day-to-day operations is a key priority at H&M. When choosing suppliers, our auditors conduct an in-depth audit. They have the mandate to make the final decision about whether a supplier or individual factory fulfills H&M’s minimum requirements.

Only after being approved by our auditors may orders be placed with a factory. All factories that are approved in this initial assessment are covered by our Full Audit Program (FAP). Through the FAP we continuously monitor the progress made by each factory and work to remediate any non-compliance that might arise. In the event of non-compliance, the supplier is required to draft a remediation plan that we then monitor closely. Wherever needed, we provide or facilitate additional support in implementing this plan.

Additional independent verification audits conducted by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) ensure the quality of our audit program and help us to constantly improve our methods. This is important as we strive to tackle the root causes of non-compliance in a transparent, trustworthy and sustainable manner. In addition, participating in the FLA provides good opportunities to cooperate with other companies and the FLA’s partner organizations with the aim of improving working standards in our supply chain.

What is H&M doing to make cotton production more sustainable?

H&M works constantly to improve the conditions in cotton farming. One of the ways we do this is through our active involvement in the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), of which we are steering committee members. BCI's vision is to enable millions of farmers around the world to grow cotton in a way that is more beneficial for both the farming community and the environment. Read more about BCI.

H&M also offers clothes made with organic cotton. The cotton used in these clothes is 100% organically grown and certified by independent certification bodies such as the Control Union or IMO. We also incorporate organic cotton into some of our children’s and babies’ clothing. We continue to encourage cotton farmers that there is a demand for organic cotton and encourage them to switch from conventional to organic production. Today H&M is one of the biggest buyers of organic cotton in the world. Read more about certification of organic cotton.