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H&M group and WWF unveil five-step strategy on water

Nowadays, clean freshwater is becoming a scarce resource. In the textile industry, water plays a critical role. Growing cotton, dyeing fabrics, creating washed-out looks — all have an impact on water resources.

H&M group and WWF unveil five-step strategy on water
Figure 1: H&M and WWF together work to improve the use of water and reduce pollution within our operations and suppliers’ factories.

Recently, WWF and H&M group share a common vision for the improved availability and quality of fresh water. Together, they have devised a five-step strategy for H&M group to enable the company to become a leading water steward in the fashion industry.

This integrated strategy goes beyond the factory lines, taking into account the whole supply chain and also covering climate action and strategic dialogue to tackle broader sustainability challenges at an industry level, such as circular production processes and the use of sustainable materials.

The five steps of the strategy are:

  1. Water awareness: boosting understanding at H&M group, at suppliers’ factories and among customers of global water challenges and their dependence on freshwater
  2. Knowledge of impact: assessing footprint and risk in our stores, warehouses and suppliers’ factories
  3. Internal action: improving the use of water and reducing pollution within our operations and suppliers’ factories
  4. Stakeholder engagement: working with companies, governments, and NGOs to address water issues in their focus regions
  5. Influence governments: engaging with public policymakers to manage water basins in a sustainable way

H&M group is committed to doing something about this environmental challenge — not least because their long-term success depends on access to water, the sustainable management of shared resources and a consideration for the needs of local communities

But this challenge cannot be solved single-handedly by just one company; it requires collaboration between organizations, industries and governments and a common sense of engagement.

Stuart Orr, Leader Freshwater Practice, WWF International, said, “Transforming the textile industry’s water management to reduce pollution is a critical part of WWF’s work to conserve freshwater resources.”

“Our global partnership with H&M group has led the way by improving H&M group’s water management and encouraging other companies, NGOs and policymakers to collectively engage on water issues on a global level,” he continued.

H&M group and WWF have worked together on water stewardship since 2011, to further extend on water, the H&M group in 2013 partnered with WWF.

H&M group and WWF jointly have developed the holistic strategy for water stewardship targeting the four key themes
Figure 2: H&M group and WWF jointly have developed the holistic strategy for water stewardship targeting the four key themes.

This collaboration ran over three years and was the first of its kind in the fashion industry. In March 2016, H&M partnered with the WWF again, in a five-year partnership. The focus is still on water stewardship, but also includes climate action and a strategic dialogue related to the H&M group and the textile industry’s broader sustainability challenges.

Mariann Eriksson, Marketing Director at WWF, expressed, “After working closely together with H&M for the past three years, we know they are committed to being good stewards of shared resources, and eager to contribute to shifting the industry towards more sustainable models.”

H&M group engages with other organizations, brands, suppliers, policymakers, and governments to improve the textile industry’s standards on water management. It is also working alongside other brands and stakeholders with the Swedish research institute SWEREA on the issue of microfiber contamination of the water system.

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