The brand is investigating alternative materials as it sets new sustainability targets © H&M
The brand is investigating alternative materials as it sets new sustainability targets © H&M

H&M backs fabric made from cow manure

25 April 2017

H&M has pledged to use 100% recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030 in its latest sustainability report.

The retailer also said it aimed to become climate positive throughout its entire value chain by 2040 – saving more greenhouse emissions through various initiatives than are used in its entire value chain.

Among the highlights in the report was the company’s commitment to switch to 100% renewable electricity. Already 96% of electricity used by the company comes from renewable sources.

H&M also aims to collect 25,000 tonnes of textiles annually by 2020 as part of a garment collection initiative. Since the initiative was launched in 2013 the company has already collected 39,000 tonnes of unwanted textiles.

Already the biggest user of cotton certified by the Better Cotton Initiative, the company said it was also one of the biggest users of organic cotton, recycled polyester and lyocell, a botanical fibre extracted from wood.

Currently, 43% of total cotton comes from sustainable sources, but the goal is to use only sustainable cotton by 2020. In 2016 26% of all materials were from recycled or sustainable sources.

H&M has launched a research project with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University to investigate circular systems for producing and using textiles.

By 2030 it is aiming to have created a climate neutral supply chain for tier one and tier two suppliers.

In 2016, the company reduced its CO2 emissions by 47% compared to 2015.

As part of efforts to improve worker conditions throughout the supply chain, 140 supplier factories are implementing improved wage management systems, covering around 250,000 workers.

Meanwhile, five teams working to make innovations and sustainable fashion have received a total of €1m as part of the H&M Foundation’s annual innovation challenge, the Global Change Award.

The overall winner was grape leather, which uses leftovers from winemaking such as grape skins and stalks to create a new type of vegetable leather.

“Instead of burning the leftovers from winemaking, which creates carbon dioxide, it becomes raw material in a process that doesn't need any harmful chemicals. The animals are happier and it even generates water as a bonus,” said the H&M Foundation.

“The idea is in its beginning stage and the next step will be to scale it, refining the process and creating partnerships within the fashion industry.”

The first runner up was a production process for nylon that only uses water, plant waste and solar energy. The foundation described this as a conceptual idea and said the next step would focus on developing a prototype.

Other winning ideas included fabric made out of cow manure.

“Since cow manure contains cellulose, there is an opportunity to extract raw material from manure which can create a biodegradable textile,” said the H&M Foundation, which was set up by the owners of the retail chain.

“Through this process, methane gas production is reduced and contamination of soil and waters are prevented.”

Other projects that received funding included old jeans used to colour new denim or make prints on other textiles and a digital tag that helps identify what materials a garment is made of.

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