Day 120 / 365

It is important to ask yourself, when you purchase clothing or products of any kind, how many extra dollars you’d be willing to spend to ensure the person who sewed your clothing is paid properly and is working in safe conditions.

Since the collapse of Rana Plaza on April 4, 2013, where 1,129 factory workers were killed and another 2,500 injured, the world has become more aware of the harms the fashion industry can cause. Rana Plaza is amongst hundreds of factories which exist in developing countries to ensure all of us in the Western world might fill our closets to the brim with objects we don’t really want (leading to 13 million tonnes of clothing being sent to the landfills each year).

In response to the Rana Plaza disaster, Fashion Revolution Week was born. A week dedicated to honouring the lives lost by bringing people from all over the world together to ask themselves, and the brands they love, #whomademyclothes.

This year, H&M, a brand well-known around the world for their cheap but fashionable clothing, chose to hold their ‘recycling week’ initiative during Fashion Revolution Week, claiming they were not aware their initiative would take part on what is arguably the most well-known organised event in the ethical (and eco) fashion movement.  

There are many issues with this initiative, as gallant as it may seem, namely that the brand, which produces a collection they’ve gone so far as to name “conscious”, isn’t. According to a joint report by the Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labour Rights Forum, Maquila Solidarity Network, and Worker’s Rights Consortium, H&M has failed to meet the standards expected of them to ensure potentially life-saving fire doors are installed in their factories.

In response to the report, H&M published a series of charts stating that of their 255 suppliers, only 61 percent of the factories had not yet completed the required fire door renovations, contrasting previous communication in which H&M stated: “fire exits are one of the most fundamental requirements for a supplier in order to be allowed to produce for H&M.”

Though it is quite obviously unacceptable for the majority of H&M factories in Bangladesh to run risk of trapping their employees in the factory in case of fire, it seems less obvious to H&M themselves. In an interview Eco Cult editor-in-chief Alden Wicker had with Henrik Lampa, H&M's Environmental Sustainability Manager, Lampa claimed H&M is, a leader on ensuring health and safety, compensation, working time, working hours. That is regardless of the type of collection we are producing”.

Eco Cult’s interview with Henrik Lampa was conducted in April of 2016, mere months after the February 2016 fire which broke out at H&M supplier Matrix Sweaters, a fire which only avoided causing deadly casualties because workers had not yet arrived to begin their shift.

To top off the ethical side of their inconsistencies comes their incomplete eco-efforts as well. Their “conscious collection” is only made “green” by the fact they use organic fabric, they still use toxic water wasting chemicals to dye the products in this collection’s creation and non-renewable energy to produce the products as well.

Their ‘recycling week’, which aims to capture 1,000 tons of unwanted clothing during that week by asking customers to drop off old clothes in return for a discount on buying more clothing is about as ass-backward as things get. First off, H&M doesn’t own the technology to recycle the fibres they gather, meaning only a small percentage of recycled yarn gets used in new garments and the rest is sent to the landfill, or resold. Meanwhile, the 1,000 tons they’ve gathered with their advertising and so-called ‘sustainable initiative’ efforts equates the amount the brand produces in a 48-hour period, Meaning their efforts actually leaves the planet and her inhabitants worse for the wear, not better.

The sheer and plentiful contradictions H&M has consciously created leaves one with a general feeling of distrust. Sure, they seem to be taking steps forward and are by no means the worst of the fast fashion brands, but are they taking those steps as a form of greenwashing to sell more clothing? or are they taking those steps for the betterment of the planet and her inhabitants?

Evidence would suggest the former.

So when it comes to coveting clothing for your closet, especially if you’re attempting to be conscious about your curation, one might consider sticking to brands with truly transparent communication, rather than one who seems unable to conduct with consistent credibly.

* Please note that Olivia Wilde and Vanessa Paradise were paid millions of dollars to stand there in H&M clothing, the workers who made the clothing both women are wearing would have to work over a month and spend the entirety of their wages just to afford one dress from the collection.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9