H&M hopes its recycling boosts image, environment

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H&M hopes its recycling boosts image, environment

Hennes & Mauritz says it has a solution to tight cotton supplies and the piles of old garments choking landfills worldwide: convince consumers to recycle castoffs by offering discounts on yet more clothing.

H&M, which won notoriety three years ago when some of its unsold inventory was shredded and left for trash on a New York City street, says the initiative will limit waste in the fast- fashion industry the company helped spawn.

The program started in February and will be in all of H&M’s 2,900 outlets by year’s end. It may bolster the company’s image in the face of fallout from the Bangladesh factory collapse in April that weighs on the garment industry, and it will help attract shoppers while H&M struggles to increase revenue.

“This is a good thing for getting people into their stores,” said Bryan Roberts, an analyst at researcher Kantar Retail. “It’s often the case that green initiatives go hand-in-hand with commercial objectives.”

The Swedish retailer collects clothing of any brand and in any condition in white and green boxes in stores. Switzerland’s I:Collect buys the garments and, depending on quality, either resells them or uses them in things like cleaning cloths and stuffed toys.

“We don’t want clothes to become waste, we want them to become a resource instead,” H&M sustainability manager Henrik Lampa said in the retailer’s headquarters overlooking Drottninggatan, a busy shopping street in Stockholm. “We want to make new commercial fibers out of this, to make new clothes and textiles.”

For every plastic bag of clothing collected in Sweden, H&M gives the donor a 50 kronor ($7.80) discount on purchases of 300 kronor at its shops. While other retailers have launched similar campaigns - Marks & Spencer has a U.K.-only effort called “Shwopping” - H&M says it will be the first fashion company to collect garments globally.

While H&M “does make a profit from the sale and recycling of unwanted clothes, the vouchers help drive footfall into stores and encourage purchases, boosting sales,” said Kate Ormrod, an analyst at Verdict Research in London.

Emma Enebog, head of donations at Myrorna, a chain of second-hand stores affiliated with the Salvation Army, cautioned that while the vouchers may make sense for H&M, they limit the ecological value of the program.

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