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H&M called out for dubious sustainability marketing

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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In April of this year H&M distributed a press release championing itself as the first major retailer of scale to publish the names of its suppliers and makers of its product in a bid to "transform the fashion industry and make it more sustainable.” A month earlier the Swedish fast fashion chain unveiled its latest Conscious collection in Los Angeles, which it said "explores the healing power of nature, while also embracing innovation with sustainable materials and processes for a more sustainable fashion future.” But not everyone is swayed by H&M’s narrative when it comes to sustainability. This week the retail behemoth was publicly criticised by the Norwegian Consumer Authority (CA ) for “illegal marketing” and promotion of its Conscious collection.

The CA, an independent administrative body which works to influence trading decisions across an array of markets, called out H&M for dubious marketing demanding the fashion brand apologise to consumers.

According to environment magazine Ecotextile News, the CA and Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) claim "H&M’s portrayal of its collection’s sustainability credentials breaches Norwegian marketing laws and alleges that the brand uses symbols, statements and colour to mislead buyers."

H&M said in a statement its Conscious collection focuses on premium pieces that celebrate the new season and showcase the increasing possibilities of sustainable fashion with a focus on development and innovation. It further cites the materials it uses are recycled polyester, organic cotton, organic linen, organic silk, tercel, lyocell, recycled plastic, recycled glass and recycled silver.

H&M told Ecotexile News the CA “doesn’t have the background or competence to evaluate [the apparel collection],” and has instead chosen to challenge the precision of the information it provides.

Last year H&M came under fire for contracting factories in its Asian supply chain with poor female labour conditions in a report released by Global Labor Justice (GLJ). The company also came under scrutiny in March 2018 when the New York Times published an article about the retailer sitting on 4.3 billion dollars of unsold inventory. For all one's marketing prowess, these would be challenging narratives for any business gloss over.

Consumer Authority (CA ) for “illegal marketing” and promotion of its Conscious collection.

Image: H&M Lycocell shirt from its Conscious Collection, source: H&M website

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