“We only have one planet, and the toll [the fashion industry] has on resources today is simply unsustainable,” says Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at the H&M Group, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.
She was referring to the company’s goal to move towards a 100% circular model by 2030, which means that everything it uses will go back into the system to be either recycled or reused.
Speaking to TheCurrent’s chief innovation officer, Rachel Arthur, at a FashMash event in London, she said the aim of the business is to keep all that is good with the fashion industry – from providing clothes to an ever increasing global population, to contributing to job opportunities and development – but doing so within the planetary boundaries.
“If you do that, if you only use what is in the system in terms of resources, then we believe that you can continue to consume fashion in the future and you will be able to have prosperous communities that depend on the fashion industry in a good way,” she explains.
It’s a cumbersome road ahead to get there of course, with the industry needing to rethink everything from design, materials, consumption, recycling and more. And while there are already plenty of ideas out there – with H&M’s non-profit Foundation leading the way with an annual award for startups in the space – time, effort and big investment is needed to get many of them to scale.
“At the moment there is not much out there in terms of what is scalable, but if we look at the pipeline of innovation that is coming, it’s fantastic,” Gedda notes. She’s particularly enthused by some of the work that’s going into recycling technology to get us to high quality upcycled fibres.
She adds that what’s really needed in the industry today to make all of this a reality for mass brands however, is a coordination of innovation efforts so things don’t happen in siloes. “If we’re going to have fast acceleration of this, then whatever is invented needs to complement something else so you can get an effective chain – whether it’s materials or production – to happen. I think that from a challenge perspective, it’s the lack of coordination, or the lack of a bigger platform where all this collaboration can really happen, that’s the key thing I would point out.”
During the conversation, the duo also explore what will make the consumer really care about sustainability, how collaboration in the industry is critical, and just why AI is so pivotal to the future.
Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.