In the 1980s and 1990s, cheap chic from the likes of H&M shook up traditional clothes retailers. Meanwhile, the rise of fast fashion meant more unwanted clothes ended up in landfill, with charities unable to keep up with the supply of secondhand clothing. Clothing is now the 2nd most significant source of pollution after oil!

The H&M brand has struggled recently. It's not the cheapest, the best quality, nor the most fashionable. It has lost out to more fashionable rivals like Zara, whilst also being outsmarted by online-centric stores. Yet its Conscious line continues to be perennially popular and H&M Group is consistently heading towards greater sustainability, reimagining the future of fashion. 

CEO Karl-Johan Persson says, “I believe companies that take responsibility for people and the environment will be the most successful in the long run.”

According to the latest Annual Report, by 2030 all the group’s brands will use only recycled or sustainably sourced materials in their collections. The 2020 goal is for suppliers’ production processes to have no chemicals the retailer has identified as hazardous, with 100% of cotton coming from sustainable sources in the next two years (up from 59% in 2017). Their ambition is to be “climate-positive” across the entire chain by 2040. 

This seems to matter increasingly to consumers. Anna Gedda, the Head of Sustainability at H&M says “Our customers and fans are really into our Conscious Exclusive collection every year, and we know that there is a lot of interest in more sustainable materials in our everyday offering as well.”


  • Apply your strengths: scale means H&M can lead the sector, drive change; profile means the fashion world sits up and takes notice
  • Take the long view: “For us, even though we are listed with all the pressures we have — it’s important to do well in the short term as well — we always prioritise the long term if the two are in conflict,” says CEO Persson