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Brief Published: 17 Dec 2012

H&M Pioneers Global Recycling Scheme


Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M has announced an ambitious global plan to reward customers for recycling unwanted clothing.

From February 2013, H&M will partner with I:Co – a US company specialising in redistributing still-wearable clothes or recycling them into industrial products – to offer consumers a £5 discount voucher in exchange for each bag of clothing donated. I:Co boxes will be placed near cash registers in stores and any type of garment is accepted, regardless of condition or brand.

I:Co pays the H&M Conscious Foundation (a programme initiated in 2007 to improve the lives of people in countries in which the brand operates) in exchange for the garments. The proceeds are then used to research sustainable technology and invest in social projects along the supply chain. The initiative has already been successfully trialled in Switzerland for over a year.

H&M product sustainability manager Henrik Lampa explained the impetus behind I:Co: “There are a lot of garments that go to waste. We encourage customers to use garments for as long as possible, but we know a lot go to incineration plants. We want to advance recycling.”

H&M has long made sustainability a core part of its brand identity: for the past 10 years it has been releasing annual global sustainability reports recording its goals and progress, and already sells clothing made from organic cotton, organic linen and recycled polyester in its Conscious Collection line.

For more on how H&M has used creative projects to communicate its commitment so social responsibility see New Pop-Ups.  

High street retailers have become increasingly proactive in upping their sustainability credentials. British retail giant Marks & Spencer launched a Sustainable Fashion Lab in April 2012 introduced a ‘shwopping’ service to dispose of unwanted clothing in its stores.

Positive Provenance also highlights how fashion brands are adapting to consumers’ increasing preoccupation with ethical production and provenance.