Global fashion company H&M tackles business and environmental risk with cutting-edge water strategy



Posted on 24 January 2013  | 
Stockholm — Fashion retailer H&M says its new water strategy will minimize water impacts throughout its operations and supply chain, and create positive change in key river basins with major garment production. The strategy was created in partnership with conservation organization WWF, which will work with H&M to implement it over the next three years.

“Water is a key resource for H&M, and we are committed to ensuring water is used responsibly throughout our value chain. We do this to minimize risks in our operations, protect the environment and secure availability of water for present and future generations. We are proud of the partnership with WWF, which we hope will inspire others to follow,” says Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of H&M.

During 2012, WWF and H&M performed a comprehensive evaluation of all H&M’s efforts and challenges related to water. These include agricultural production of fibers, as well as dyeing and washing processes. The review guided development of the new H&M water strategy, which WWF and H&M will implement together starting this year. According to WWF, no other fashion company has such a comprehensive global water strategy.

“This partnership marks an evolution in the corporate approach to water. H&M understands that its long-term success depends on access to adequate water supplies. It also understands that its social license to operate depends on being a good neighbour and good steward of shared resources. H&M’s water strategy is an integral part of its business plan. We hope other companies will be inspired to take the same approach,” says Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.

To embed sustainability from the beginning, H&M designers and buyers will receive additional training on water impacts of raw material production, as well as wet processes for different styles. H&M will also improve its internal water efficiency, minimize its suppliers’ impact on water, and educate staff and customers about water issues.

WWF and H&M will work in collaboration with policymakers, NGOs, water institutions and other companies to support better management of particular river basins in China and Bangladesh – key production hubs for the company. In addition, H&M will support WWF freshwater conservation projects in the Yangtze river basin in China.

Currently, 2.7 billion people – roughly 40 per cent of the world’s population – live in river basins that experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year, according to WWF’s 2012 Living Planet Report. About a third of the factories that make clothes for H&M using wet processes are already located in extreme water scarce areas, or will be by 2025. This partnership builds on 10 years of H&M’s work to reduce negative water impacts in different parts of the value chain.

Notes to Editors:
H&M supplier participation: The strategy will be implemented across all of H&M’s 48 national markets, with the aim of reaching all 750 direct suppliers and many fabric manufacturers with information about the new water strategy. H&M will initially work on engagement on water management with 190 suppliers manufacturing the majority of its products. River basin stakeholder engagement will be focused on the Yangtze in China and Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.

Staff involved: Approximately 1,000 H&M staff in buying offices, production and sales will be directly involved in implementing the strategy. All 94,000 H&M employees will learn about water issues.

WWF’s innovative model of water stewardship encompasses all aspects of a business’ approach to water, and moves beyond the ‘factory gate’ to address impacts in relevant river basins. H&M and WWF have worked together to understand how H&M can move towards best practice in all these aspects. This is the first time a fashion company has applied such a comprehensive model across their whole business, and therefore WWF believes that H&M is now leading in their sector.

For more information:
Niki Parker, Corporate Communications Manager, WWF International: +41 22 364 9072, +41 79 955 9952 (mobile) nparker@wwfint.org
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The Yangtze River - the Chinese Eden of biodiversity.
© WWF-Canon / Michel Gunther Enlarge

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