Is H&M Just Talking the Talk?

Graphic by Eric Estibeiro

The dangers of global warming have been spreading like wildfire. To slow down the inevitable from happening, people from all over the world have been inculcating habits that are environment friendly. Plastic straws are replaced with paper straws, reusable glasses have been in the making. Restaurants, arcades, tourist places, and so many more places are implementing nature friendly services. Every area is making improvements, including the fashion industry.

The concept of “sustainable fashion” has expeditiously become famous. Although, the question arises — what exactly falls under the term ‘sustainable fashion?’ All kinds of clothing labeled as ‘sustainable fashion’ are highly environmentally friendly. They are designed, created, produced, and distributed in a very eco-friendly manner. It is also known as ‘ethical fashion.’ Producing sustainable clothing is a guaranteed way to keep the industry going on for many more years to come. Moreover, its primary focus is to maintain a flourishing community.

The fashion industry has been known to be harmful to the environment since the industrial revolution began in England. This is mainly because factories worked on coal, traditionally referred to as ‘sweatshops.’ They were basically manufacturing facilities that employed workers with preposterously low wages, higher working hours, poor and threatening surroundings. In today’s world, the concept of fast fashion has been having a similar negative impact on the environment. Fast fashion is nothing but producing fashion in bulk and putting it up on the market for over consumption. Since the prices are cheaper and the quality is immense, people tend to buy the products in masses. Consumption in bulk is precisely why fast fashion is damaging. Large-scale fashion brands like H&M, Zara, GAP, have been using an endless cycle of overproduction and overconsumption.

H&M’s claim to producing sustainable fashion caused an uproar wherein they were also sued with several lawsuits. On the 19th of April in 2014, rumors of conspiracies began to spread and H&M was met with its first lawsuit for being racially insensitive and for copyright purposes. Subsequently, few inspections also took place to introspect the sustainable fashion claims that the company made. The research’s findings were quite shocking and disappointing.

Despite claiming that they are environmentally friendly, research and investigation stated the complete opposite. It was later discovered that H&M had been greenwashing their customers all along. Greenwashing is a malpractice in which brands claim to have “ethical,” “sustainable,” and “friendly” products. However, it is just a mere incorporation of labels. In reality, they continue to overproduce clothing and sell it inexpensively for mass consumption. H&M put up green scorecards, to indicate their use of eco-friendly clothes, and it was anything but. They reportedly said that one of the dresses was made of 20% less water. But the research proved that they had in fact used 20% more water. They just conveniently presented the negative results as positive ones – and this was just the beginning of calling out H&M. Most of their materials are made up of polyester (instead of organic cotton) which is widely known to shed more microfibres and cannot be called biodegradable. They even used an inviting and bright color scheme in their display to attract customers. The Commodore dived deeper and found out that they just reuse the old, discarded clothes and turn it into new fashion. H&M does not stand for sustainable fashion, and only claims to do so in order to attract more consumers. Nonetheless, it still stands that their way of producing fashion is very environmentally harmful. The Commodore is only trying to keep the company accountable by filing the lawsuit.

Upon questioning, H&M could not come up with a strong counterpoint and chose to stay silent. With the ALDI case and increasingly growing lawsuits, H&M owned up to its mistake and faced the consequences. The brand exploits materials that are harmful for nature and sells it under the label of it being “sustainable.” Considering the never ending pollution, it is high time we genuinely prompt sustainable fashion instead of it just being show and not tell.

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