H&M is one of the largest fast fashion brands in the world. While the brand still has a lot of work to do in order to be anywhere near sustainable, it's been slowly but surely moving in a more planet-friendly direction.
The brand launched its Conscious Collection in 2010, which has since utilized materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester, and Piñatex. In recent years, H&M has also started incorporating Agraloop BioFibre (which is derived from food crop waste) and BLOOM (a plant-based foam produced that uses algae biomass) into its lineup.
H&M's latest step toward a more sustainable future is with the launch of H&M Reware, a resale platform “that will give a second life to [shoppers'] favorite styles and lead the way to a more sustainable future." But is it as eco-friendly as it seems?
What Is H&M Rewear?
Deputing in Canada on September 7, H&M Rewear won't just feature clothing from H&M. It's open to all brands, similar to online secondhand shops like ThredUP.
"Although we offer garment collecting in our stores, we felt it was important to find a second way for our customers to recycle their clothing," said Géraldine Maunier-Rossi, head of marketing for H&M Canada, in a press release. "With H&M Rewear, we're not only offering a place for Canadians to recycle and reuse products, but we're giving them a platform to become active participants in circularity and give a second life to their favorite styles."
As for how it works, the platform allows users to both buy and sell clothing. Those who sell clothing will have two different ways they can receive payment: Either through a direct deposit or receiving an H&M Gift Card "with an added 20% value that can be redeemed online and in-store."
Similar Options from Other Brands
Right now, there's no word on if or when H&M Rewear will be launching in the United States. With that being said, some other well-known retailers have already launched similar initiatives to give customers' old clothes a second life.
Earlier this year, Madewell partnered with ThredUP to create Madewell Forever. This program allows consumers to recycle old denim or purchase gently-worn denim. Anthropologie also launched a similar collection through a partnership with Nuuly, a clothing rental subscription owned by URBN (the parent company of Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People), to sell pre-owned clothes. You'll find pieces that would normally be upward of $100 for as low as $15.
There's no question that these collections are a step in the right direction. Purchasing an item through a secondhand market is better for the planet than buying new, and secondhand markets can save up to 190,000 tons of carbon emissions a year relative to new textile retailers. But how eco-friendly are they really?
Are These Resale Platforms as Eco as They Seem?
Resale markets like those from H&M and Anthropologie make the company seem environmentally friendly. In the press release for H&M Rewear, the company stated sustainability and circularity are some of its top priorities. But can these initiatives offset the environmental damage caused by fast fashion?
Other sustainability initiatives at H&M, like their clothing recycling bin, do some good for the planet. However, only 35% of the clothing turned into H&M is actually recycled—and these limited environmental actions can't offset the detrimental effects of fast fashion.
Instead of launching a resale platform for the clothing people want to get rid of, a better solution would be to stop producing so much clothing in the first place. Especially since H&M produces three billion garments per year and is known as one of the fashion industry's biggest polluters.
Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't utilize these resale markets. Recycling an old pair of jeans is better for the environment than sending them to the landfill. However, it's important to use these sustainable initiatives consciously. H&M's resale shop doesn't make H&M a sustainable company.
What's the best way to stock your wardrobe? Ultimately, one of the best things you can do is get creative with what you already have. Then when you do need something, stay away from fast fashion and focus on high-quality, long-lasting items you know will hold up for years to come.
Hopefully, initiatives like H&M Rewear signal a large-scale transition toward a more sustainable and circular fashion industry. But in the meantime, buying less and buying better is always better for the planet.
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