Interview with H&M’s Sustainability Manager, Mia Møgelgaard
I met Mia on a rainy day while @Roskilde Festival. I was fishing for “that great interview” and I knew I had it when she accepted my invitation. Sustainability is such a hot topic right now and I was so curious to find out more about H&M’s future plans. We meet at the H&M stand, found a cozy corner, away from the summer rain, and started chatting. I must say that I was so impressed to find out that being a sustainable brand is H&M’s top priority, as well as being a forerunner within the field of fashion sustainability. If I liked H&M before, now I’m its biggest fan!
Thank you, Mia for making the time to chat with SAHB – it’s been such a pleasure and we do hope we’ll meet again!
Mia: “When I try to explain what it is that we do, I find that the easiest way is to look at the whole value chain, so explaining each step we take in the value chain, the challenges we face and how we tackle them is a good starting point. Finding the most sustainable solution is the easiest way to make our work understood, we have an entire team working towards a more sustainable fashion future.”
SAHB: What is H&M general goal when talking sustainability?
“I would say that our ambition is to create a more sustainable future not just for H&M but for the entire fashion industry. We are such a big player, the second biggest fashion company in the world – this comes with a huge responsibility and we want to take that responsibility on and not only make sure that we run our own business in a sustainable way, but also influence and help other smaller brands to find the right path.
When we founded H&M in 1947, our business idea was fashion and quality at the best price and for 70 years it’s been our idea – and within quality we always included the idea of sustainability – but last year our CEO decided to add another line and the result is: Fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way – and I think it tells a lot about our direction and what we want to offer our customers.”
SAHB: The world is changing and most of us are trying to be more sustainable, to recycle more, eat organic and have a healthy and nature friendly lifestyle, and this includes what we wear. Do you feel that the costumers are more interested in the story of the garments they buy?
“Yes, especially the young generation: they’re going to be much more willing to spend money in the stores where they feel good about their purchases. However, customers still base their decisions on trends and the designers – but sustainability is more and more important and we believe that it will eventually be an even bigger factor in why people buy a garment. It’s a total lifestyle change, but we’ve seen it in the food industry and it slowly but surely transcends to the fashion industry. Creating something cool is not enough anymore; it also has to be sustainable and H&M wants to be one step ahead, exceeding our customers’ expectations.
SAHB: I love your new catch up line: ” Looking good should do good too!” – it sounds so simple and to the point. Can you please tell me more about its philosophy?
It’s important for us to make sure the customers understand the background of the garment they buy. When we talk to our shop managers in the stores, we most often are told that customers have more and more questions about our products. And we’ve realised that, of course, first of all we have to make great fashion and secondly when we talk about sustainability and our involvement we must make it fun, and sexy and appealing. Which, i think we’ve succeed, as we can see that in our new campaign. Our videos are very popular, because they are not taking a ‘teaching’ stand, we want people to understand that it’s natural to care about sustainability and to be aware of how clothes are being made.
SAHB: I have read about your 7 commitments, so interesting! But isn’t it difficult to try to fulfil all of these?
“Initially, the 7 commitments were created to make it easier for us to work within our production line and all our projects, however we have seen that it was difficult for everyone to grasp and respect them, kind of a Utopia of fashion.
So, we’ve decided to be clearer and our new strategy comes with 3 visions:
- 100% circular (the close the loop thinking) – a huge vision, we don’t have all the answers on how we’re going to do this – it will need a lot more research to get there because today we cannot recycle all the materials that we use, so it’s a matter of looking at: the way we design our products, which types of materials we use and how can we reuse the products once their life’s over – it’s a big challenge but this is our direction.
- 100% leading the change – taking charge and respecting our global responsibility and our role in the fashion world. We don’t want to be just one of the front-runners, we want to lead within sustainability.
- 100% fair and equal. Our goal is to be a fair employer; respect human rights offer equal opportunities.”
SAHB: I have also read about your social work and I’m so impressed by the positive impact H&M has in developing societies, can you tell me more about it?
“We, at H&M, want to make sure that we have a positive influence in the local communities where we are present. We work closely with UNICEF and offer free education in countries like India and Bangladesh. More than 2 million children have received education and we don’t plan to stop here. I’ve always been proud to work for H&M but when I visited the schools in Bangladesh, not too long ago, I was truly overwhelmed by what I saw. Children that would otherwise be illiterate now can read and write and have the possibility of a future outside of their closed communities. It’s quite a success for H&M and we couldn’t have done it without the collaboration with UNICEF.”
SAHB: When did H&M and Roskilde Festival started to cooperate?
“This is our 7th year at Roskilde Festival. The first 3 years, we had an H&M camp – a sustainable camp, we were very interested in waste sorting and we offered organic food and a different festival experience for those of us who wanted to come to Roskilde but they were looking for a nice, cleaner camp area. And the last 4 years, we’ve been here, in the festival area, and it has been a similar setup. Our goal is to collect people’s used clothes while they’re at the festival – last year we had a swap shop, so people could swap their old t-shirts for a new one, we had designers customising the t-shirts and it was such a success! It was also a great way to start a dialogue about sustainability within fashion: about garment collecting and sustainability talk in a more informal atmosphere.”
SAHB: Why Roskilde festival, what’s connection?
“Easy! Because as you might know, the festival is also very interested in looking at more sustainable approaches towards waste sorting, energy use, and how to bring 100000 people together in the most sustainable way. It was a very good match between what we want to do and what they want to achieve, we can help each other. It’s team-work.”
SAHB: What is the message that you would like to send to H&M customers? Can they do anything in order to invest in a more sustainable future for fashion?
“H&M is trying to create a sustainable future for fashion in general, and we do a lot from our side, but we also need to engage with our customers, as they play a very important role in this close the loop philosophy. What they buy, how they use the garments and what they do with them once they’re done using them is crucial. This is collaboration, a partnership, and I hope the consumers will understand how important their role is in making sustainable choices when shopping.
The consumers have a huge influence, they have the power to change the way that clothes are produced and I do hope they engage and work closely with companies like H&M, because together we can make a change.”