Supply chain sustainability focus: Gustaf Asp, Managing Director, Treadler on circular economies
eft by Reuters Events sits down to discover how the H&M offshoot is helping companies achieve sustainability in fashion supply chains
Treadler is a bold new idea backed by the H&M Group. That idea – to open up H&M’s global supply chain expertise as a business-to-business service and allow partners to work across product development sourcing, production and logistics in a sustainable manner.
To understand how they are making this work and what they are doing to create sustainable supply chains for these partners, eyefortransport spoke to Gustaf Asp, Managing Director, Treadler for a Q&A on what all businesses, and particularly those in the garment sector, can do to go green.
Sustainability often takes a back seat. Why should operators in the supply chain care and what business benefits does a focus on sustainability bring?
To prosper today and in the future, no business can continue to operate as it has in the past, and Treadler is part of a group that sees investing in sustainability as a business opportunity and a necessity for future success. Having a strategic sustainability programme is of vital business importance and will be a necessity for all companies that wish to be competitive now and in the future.
The group is working to build circularity into every stage of the value chain — from design and production to customer use, reuse and recycling
Treadler can help companies overcome initial business barriers and accelerate sustainable change by accessing the global supply chain of H&M Group. We are aware that there are still challenges to address, and to do so, we believe that the best way forward is through partnerships, knowledge sharing and transparency.
Where can supply chain and logistics leaders make the biggest impact on sustainability?
The climate crisis and resource depletion are two of the biggest challenges facing the planet. A linear, unconstrained model of production and consumption is not sustainable, and H&M Group is determined to be proactive in moving the industry towards a better, circular way of working. The group’s focus is on two critical areas:
- Achieving full circularity: Circular models optimise resources and minimise waste, so that resources stay in use for as long as possible before being recycled or repurposed. The group is working to build circularity into every stage of the value chain — from design and production to customer use, reuse and recycling — and to source only sustainable, renewable and recycled resources. To become fully circular is ambitious but working towards a world without waste is essential for our planet and our business.
- Becoming climate positive: The climate crisis is the most urgent challenge faced by the world. H&M Group is determined to play its part in tackling carbon emissions, and the group’s goal is to become climate positive by 2040. The group’s circular approach is an important foundation to reach this goal, alongside working to cut energy use throughout its value chain, using renewable energy, and exploring natural and technological carbon sinks.
The group also set standards to encourage our transport companies to reduce their social and environmental impacts and collaborate on solutions such as electrical trucks for last mile delivery in China and delivery to customers by bike in the Netherlands.
We have a focus on the following parts of the value chain to achieve that goal:
Upstream transport represents around 3% of the greenhouse gas emissions in a garment’s lifecycle. By choosing the right modes of transport and placing orders closer to sales markets, this impact can be reduced even further. H&M Group uses ships and trains to transport over 90% of products from the suppliers to warehouses. The group also set standards to encourage our transport companies to reduce their social and environmental impacts and collaborate on solutions such as electrical trucks for last mile delivery in China and delivery to customers by bike in the Netherlands.
H&M Group’s goal is that all its materials should be either recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way by 2030, at the latest. By choosing sustainably-sourced cotton and other materials, like recycled polyester or lyocell, impact can be significantly reduced.
Fabric and yarn production
From making yarn to final fabrics, there are concerns regarding water, chemicals, carbon emissions and working conditions. Generally, H&M Group does not have direct business relationships with mills but work with organisations such as WWF and the Swedish Textile Water Initiative (STWI) to help them improve their sustainability performance. The group is integrating all identified fabric and yarn mills involved in making its products into the group’s Sustainable Impact Partnership Programme. H&M Group operates one of the strictest Chemical Restrictions List in the industry.
H&M group does not own any factories - instead the group works with independent suppliers. Many of the group’s products are made in developing countries, and garment production is often the first step out of poverty for many of these countries. Together with its suppliers, the group has made great improvements in developing better social and environmental standards at the factories. Achieving fair living wages, reducing overtime and ensuring workplace safety are key focus areas. Local presence and long-term relationships with its suppliers are some of the key elements that makes the group’s supply chain unique. This is also an integrated part in the Treadler service offer.
In what ways has your business invested in becoming more sustainable?
The H&M group is working actively to ensure that all its products are designed, manufactured and handled with responsibility for the people and the environment. The group is taking a long-term approach to achieve sustainable production, while at the same time creating fair jobs and driving prosperity in the markets where it operates. This strategic sustainability work is at the core of Treadler’s service offer, where we aim to help clients overcome initial business barriers to accelerate sustainable change.
H&M Group works to ensure that sustainability is integrated into all aspects of its business. It should pervade everything from business decisions to the everyday work at all departments
With its ambition to take a lead in ensuring a more sustainable fashion industry, H&M Group works to ensure that sustainability is integrated into all aspects of its business. It should pervade everything from business decisions to the everyday work at all departments. Even though there are still challenges to address, H&M Group has come a long way when it comes to sustainability. Treadler’s clients will benefit from the group’s long experience and expertise, robust policies and routines, as well as local presence in production countries and long-term partnerships with its suppliers.
Where are companies regularly failing in terms of supply chain efficiencies and therefore emissions?
There needs to be a shift toward a circular mindset throughout the value chain, from design and production to customer use, reuse and recycling — and to source only sustainable, renewable and recycled resources. When talking about emissions specifically, the whole industry must support suppliers that actively take a step away from fossil fuel. The challenges are very different depending on each countries approach to energy production.
How are customer, consumer and investor attitudes changing to become more aware of emissions and companies in creating them?
Investor attitudes are quickly changing. Initiatives like TCFD (The Financial Stability Board Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) and BlackRock’s decision to divest all their money away from fossil fuels. Moves like this will drive the transition and big money will force investments away from fossil fuels. Companies need to lead to achieve the systemic changes needed in our industry, customers have a responsibility too, but should not have to feel that pressure.
Caring for clothes at home, such as washing and drying, accounts for 13% of a garment’s total carbon emissions
Customers can play an important part in tackling emissions once a garment has left the store. Caring for clothes at home, such as washing and drying, accounts for 13% of a garment’s total carbon emissions. H&M Group wants to inspire customers to be conscious of the way they care for their clothes. For example, washing garments at 30°C instead of 60°C and hanging the laundry to dry cuts energy use — and saves money. The H&M Take Care initiative offers guidance online as well as repair services in selected stores.
Another aspect is recycling, around 73% of all discarded textiles end up in landfill or being incinerated. Less than 1% is recycled to make new clothing. H&M Group focuses on making it as easy as possible for customers to recycle, regardless of brand or condition. In 2019 around 29,000 tonnes of garments were collected for recycling and reuse through the group’s stores — equivalent to 145 million t-shirts.
H&M Group is always exploring new ways to expand a circular approach, from introducing clothes rental and pre-owned options, to investing in fabric recycling and innovative low-impact materials.