Posted by: Rachel Iwaniec
H&M announced a global clothing recycling initiative beginning in February 2013. Partnering with the global recycling company, I:Collect, H&M intends to promote an effort in reducing the environmental impact of textile waste. As an incentive for customers to partake in this venture, H&M will offer a 15% discount on an item of their choice.
But the question is will this plan really be making a difference? Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company has a clear mission that encourages customers to buy fewer products. With a pledge that states, “buy only what I need (and will last), repair what breaks, reuse (share) what I no longer need and recycle everything else,” Patagonia asks its customers to think twice before purchasing a new item of clothing. And while this approach goes against the concept of retail, Patagonia argues that the enterprise is not focused on sales, but rather the ability to have a positive impact on the environment.
In contrast to Patagonia’s efforts in changing the consumption thought process, H&M is not asking customers to stop shopping or to shop less. In fact, this initiative gives customers the incentive to donate their old clothes in exchange for buying more clothing. Based on the Marks and Spencer Shwopping model, the campaign aims to promote the donation of clothing to support people living in poverty. And while this H&M initiative intends on promoting a longer clothing life cycle, ultimately the company advocates increased consumption.
As a strong symbol for “fast-fashion” and fashion for less, H&M is a main player in the business of obsolete fashion. Highly trend laden, the global retailor serves as the link between high fashion and the mainstream customer. Subsequently, the fast turnover of products conveys a sense of clothing as disposable goods. Value is displaced on a need to be “on trend” rather than buying what you need. This way of thinking is only continuing the vicious cycle of textile waste and an impending strain on the environment.
I am skeptical of H&M’s efforts to promote “greener” methods of consumption. While the campaign intends to bring environmental awareness to its customers, H&M does not plan on changing its current mass production methods. Change must occur at the design level of production for environmental impact. With that said, I think it will be hard for this global recycling initiative to have a significant effect, if any, on the reduction of textile waste and extension of the clothing life cycle.
With it being a new year and positivity being one of my new year resolutions, maybe H&M’s global recycling initiative could be a small step in the right direction. Could we be at the brink of a new fast ‘green’ fashion revolution?