FIVE QUESTIONS FOR HELENA HELMERSSON, HEAD OF CSR AT H&M
You started as new head of CSR at H&M in 2010; what is your vision?
Improving the environmental and social sustainability of our supply chain has been a major focus of our work since the ’90s and it will remain a core part of our program. My long-term vision here is to see our suppliers and their employees able to take full ownership of their sustainability issues.
Although I know that there is still a long way to go, we are making progress.
Although I know that there is still a long way to go, we are making progress. But today, sustainability is about so much more than just our direct suppliers. We have already taken important steps to reduce impacts further down our value chain.
Alongside our goal for all the cotton we use to be produced more sustainably by 2020, we have started to look at the carbon and water use impact of our products across their entire life cycle.
Being at the forefront of sustainability will mean aiming both to be carbon neutral and to produce zero waste.
In the future, being at the forefront of sustainability will mean aiming both to be carbon-neutral and to produce zero waste. That has to be our ultimate aim. I think it is important to bring our customers along with us on this journey. We need to make them more aware of all the work we do to be more sustainable. Fashion should be fun and we want our customers to be able to rely on us taking our responsibility seriously. We want to inspire them to adapt their own behavior too; for example, by lowering the temperature at which they wash their clothes.
What do you think are your biggest challenges ahead in this position?
Remaining at the forefront of sustainability in our industry is a challenge. The crucial factor is how well we manage to extend our work to improve social and environmental conditions further down our value chain. The other big challenge is to tackle complex structural issues that underlie much of our supply chain, many of which require an industry-wide response.
Many of the complex structural issues that underlie our supply chain require an industry-wide response
The discussion about minimum wages in Bangladesh last year is one such example. There, engagement with other buyers and using our joint influence over lawmakers was needed in order for us to make a difference. Taking an active role in public policy, working further towards collaborative actions and building bridges that lead to lasting improvements are some of the things we will put even more focus on in the future.