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Embracing a circular approach to fashion allows us to transform the unsustainable patterns of production, consumption and trade in the industry. By applying new business models and using technology and innovation as enablers, waste can be avoided, environmental impacts minimised, and new economic value generated. Collaboration is essential to push development forward and make this shift happen.

Anna Gedda is Head of Sustainability at H&M group. She shares her perspective on how brands can move from a linear to a circular business model.

Fashion is remarkable – in so many ways. Fashion helps you express your personality, it makes you feel empowered, it makes you feel strong without saying a single word. Fashion also creates millions of job opportunities and plays a big part in the global economy. We all know this, and it is indeed important to keep and accelerate all the positive impacts of fashion. But with the world’s growing population and middle class, we need to make sure that people can continue to enjoy fashion in their everyday lives without exceeding the planetary boundaries. We need to further reduce dependency on natural resources, our impact on our climate, waste and water consumption, just to name a few of the challenges we face.

This is an important mission, not just for H&M group, but the whole fashion industry. To us it is quite clear that the solution must go beyond incremental improvements and lead to an industry-wide shift from a linear to a circular business model. A circular approach to how fashion is made and used – separating economic growth from the use of natural resources – is key. One important aspect is to inspire customers to value and take care of their clothes. Another one is that companies take responsibility for the products they offer – not only at production and selling stages, but also when the customer no longer uses the product. The ability to meet the needs of a world population projected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050 in a way that our planet can afford, we must transform to a circular and climate positive industry. By using recycled or other sustainably sourced materials, as well as further developing sustainable production processes and increasing the use of renewable energy, we believe that this transition is possible.

It is quite clear that the solution must go beyond incremental improvements

H&M group takes a holistic approach to circularity and incorporates the whole value chain – covering design, material sourcing, production processes and the user phase. Our vision is to be fully circular, which is why we have set ambitious initial goals and milestones, such as using 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 and becoming climate positive across our value chain by 2040. To reach our vision, technology and innovation is of the greatest importance. That’s why we support the development of new ideas within sustainability and innovation, both through investments and knowledge. We’re involved in various initiatives to push the development forward, for example the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel, where we are working jointly to accelerate research on textile recycling. Another example is the company re:newcell, whose technology has the potential to use pre- and post-consumer textile waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.

No company alone can tackle the challenges the industry is facing. That’s why collaboration with partners such as Global Fashion Agenda is so important in the endeavour to align and further accelerate the array of already existing positive efforts, to standardise best practice and to guide the trajectory of joint leadership.

Global Fashion Agenda has reached out to industry leaders to get their perspective on the priorities in the CEO Agenda and how to get closer to solutions. The think pieces are a reflection of their personal or organisation’s approach to the issues and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinions and views of Global Fashion Agenda and its Strategic Partners.