Sustainability At H&M Research Papers Example
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Sustainable development has increasingly gained the interest of various organizations following growing concerns about environmental sustainability and the impact of organizational operations on the environment. Some issues that businesses or companies need to address include pollution, water shortage, and overproduction. All of these issues contribute to environmental degradation. Considering the foregoing issues, the primary goal of the discussion is to determine and analyze sustainable practices implemented in an organization. To narrow down the research, the discussion focuses on H&M, a Swedish retailer of clothing in the fast fashion industry that caters to consumers all over the world. H&M has adopted sustainable strategies – reducing its consumption of water, collecting garments for recycling and reusing, and sourcing organic cotton from farmers that do not use pesticides.
The main issues that will be raised in the discussion include pollution brought about by the release of chemicals in the environment, and water shortage. The environmental issues will be described in the next section. The succeeding section, on the other hand, focuses on H&M’s sustainable practices, specifically the company’s partnership with a sustainable source for cotton, its initiatives to conserve and reduce the company’s use of water, and H&M’s recycling and reusing policies.
Sustainable Development at H&M
Carson (2010) explored various factors that affect the environment. According to Carson, chemicals released into the environment leads to pollution, and the further degradation of the environment such as the quality of air and water. Examples of chemicals that are harmful to the environment include insect repellents as well as pesticides and other chemicals used in farms. Substances from these chemicals not only poison the air, water, and soil but also accumulate in plants or are ingested by animals and insects. Consequently, substances react with other naturally-occurring substances in plants, animals, and insects, thereby, leading to a mutation among these species. Mutation changes the physical and chemical composition of the plants and insects.
Mutation also brings about risks to human beings. In some cases, the presence of toxic substances in the environment leads to mutation in insects. As a result of this mutation, insects become immune to other chemicals used to eradicate them when needed. The danger lays in the possibility that these insects may carry harmful diseases that could inflict human beings. When it becomes difficult for people to repel or eradicate insects, then it would lead to the spread of deadly diseases. This is just one example of how the release of chemicals in the environment is harmful to human beings.
Another environmental issue that necessitates action from organizations is water crisis. Some people believe that because majority of the Earth’s surface is made of water, water shortage is an impossibility. However, scientists have looked into the issue and discovered that water shortage is a problem that could get worse in the coming years if people fail to address it today. Due to water pollution, the high demand for water due to the increasing population, and the impact of climate change, majority of the world’s population will likely suffer water shortage in the next decades. “FLOW: For Love of Water” is a documentary that explores the issue. In the documentary, the filmmakers revealed that billions of people around the world, particularly in poor countries, do not have access to clean drinking water. Moreover, millions of people suffer or die after drinking contaminated water. In the documentary, the filmmakers also revealed the contamination of water sources and the lack of infrastructure and systems in poor countries to treat contaminated water.
The emergence of water cartels contribute to water shortage. Water cartels are involved in the privatization of water sources. When this happens, cartels can control the cost of water. As a result, only a small number of people can afford clean water produced by these cartels. “FLOW: For the Love of Water” also explored this issue in the documentary. The emergence of water cartels prove to be problems for poor countries. While private businesses or companies continue to expand and capitalize on existing water sources, the supply of water in poor countries dwindle. Furthermore, water cartels continue to increase the cost of clean water, thereby, making it difficult for poor populations to gain access to them.
The foregoing issues illustrate the problems that affect the quality and sustainability of the environment. Although human beings on earth are responsible for their actions and the impact of these actions on the environment, businesses and corporations with large-scale operations are responsible for the impact of their operations and practices on the environment. For this reason, there is a need to hold businesses and companies responsibility for the impact of their practices and operations. Since the focus of this discussion is on H&M, the succeeding discussion will be about the role and the practices of H&M that address the problems or issues aforementioned about the environment.
As formerly noted, one of the objectives in conducting research is to determine H&M’s sustainable development practices. The research is guided by a central question: how does H&M help or contribute to sustainability in the environment? Furthermore, the primary thesis in the research is that sustainable development practices at H&M are expected to contribute to a better situation in the future due to the company’s responsible practices, specifically saving water, zero pesticide consumption due to the company’s choice of textile, and other practices. H&M’s sustainable development practices will be explored in the succeeding discussion.
In an interview with H&M’s CEO Karl-Johan Persson in 2013, Persson mentioned some of H&M’s sustainable activities (H&M Conscious Actions, 2013). For one, the company is trying to significantly reduce its water consumption and contribute to causes that aim to provide clean water for people around the world. To specifically address the challenges brought about by water shortage, H&M looked for a way to reduce the company’s water consumption. By 2013, H&M was able to reduce its water consumption to produce its denim materials by 340 million liters (H&M Conscious Actions, 2013).
Cotton farming raises serious issues that could harm the environment. Essentially, a high demand for fashionable clothing necessitates widespread cotton farming to meet the demand of the consumers in the fashion industry. Furthermore, extensive cotton farming also harms the environment due to farmers’ use of pesticides and chemicals to speed up the growth of cotton crops. It is necessary to do so cotton farmers would be able to meet the high demand of cotton from clothing companies such as H&M. To avoid the company’s involvement in this practice, H&M selects cotton sources that adopt organic farming strategies. Organic farming means that farmers do not use pesticides or other chemicals to grow their crops. Hence, organic farming is safe for the environment. H&M is a member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which promotes organic farming of cotton.
As formerly mentioned, H&M sources its cotton from sustainable sources. According to H&M, sourcing cotton from organic farms is more expensive. Nevertheless, the company is willing to spend more to meet its demand of cotton to produce garments. According to H&M, the company spends more to purchase organic cotton not only because farmers do not use pesticides and other chemicals but also because the farmers work in a safe and chemical-free environment, and cotton crops in organic farms are not genetically modified (H&M, 2015). Another reason why H&M source organic cotton is because zero use of fertilizers and pesticides significantly reduce the amount of water that farmers use when farming.
Another sustainable practice adopted at H&M is garment collection. H&M collects old or unwanted garments from the company’s markets. Consequently, H&M recycles used clothes to produce new designs and collections (H&M Conscious Actions, 2013). Aside from recycling old and unwanted clothing, H&M donates the rest to charity. According to Persson, H&M garment collection and recycling practices contribute to the reduction of textile waste from the production and distribution stages (H&M Conscious Actions, 2013).
Recycling and reusing clothing is part of H&M’s strategy to reduce its water consumption. H&M (2015) acknowledges that the cotton used to produce jeans made of denim would take 8,500 liters of water to grow. By recycling old clothes made of cotton, H&M would save on the production of cotton from farms, and thereby, save on water production.
H&M is also involved in several environmental causes and works with other institutions to adopt and implement sustainable practices. Some of H&M’s partners include the Better Cotton Initiative, Better work, and Sustainable Apparel Coalition. H&M’s involvement and collaboration with these agencies and institutions show the company’s commitment and desire to contribute and follow through their sustainable development policies. Hence, all the practices discussed above address and support the thesis as well as answer the primary question raised in the beginning of the discussion.
The foregoing discussion illustrates H&M’s sustainable development policies in light of various issues and problems that challenge the environment. Some of the issues raised beforehand include water shortage and pollution brought about by harmful human activities such as the use of chemicals that harm the environment. Since human activities, particularly operations in businesses and companies significantly contribute to pollution and water shortage, it is their responsibility to adopt sustainable practices to reduce their detrimental impact on the environment. H&M is one of the companies that has done so over the years. Considering the outcomes of the research, we may address the central question of research and prove the thesis that H&M’s sustainable development will contribute to a better future.
H&M’s sustainable practices focus on three areas – saving water and reducing the company’s water consumption, sourcing cotton from sustainable farms that do not use pesticides and fertilizers, and the recycling and reusing of old and unwanted garments. H&M has reduced its water consumption by sourcing cotton from organic farms that do not use pesticides and fertilizers, and reusing and recycling old garments to limit water used in the production of cotton. H&M also spends more by sourcing cotton from organic farms as a means to protest the use of fertilizer, pesticides, and other chemicals in farming. Overall, the performance of H&M and the impact of the company’s strategies in sustainability development is expected to contribute to improvements in the environment.
Carson, R. (2000). The Obligation to Endure. McGraw-Hill Companies.
Feeney, C. & Brown, A. (Producer), & Salina, I. (Director). (2008). Flow: For the Love of Water [Documentary]. US: The Group Entertainment.
H&M. (2015). Cotton. Retrieved from: http://about.hm.com/en/About/sustainability/commitments/conscious-fashion/more-sustainable-materials/cotton.html
H&M Conscious Actions. (2015). Sustainability Report 2013. Retrieved from: http://sustainability.hm.com/content/dam/hm/about/documents/en/CSR/reports/Conscious%20Actions%20Sustainability%20Report%202013_en.pdf
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