MANILA, Philippines – Since February 2013, Swedish fast-fashion house H&M (Hennes & Mauritz AB) has gathered 14,000 tons of clothing across its global stores – equivalent to 18 million t-shirts – through its garment collecting initiative.
Imagine the used scarves or cardigans or jeans not going to waste at the back of one’s wardrobe or worse, in a landfill. And H&M does not mind of what brand or in what condition are the items brought to them.
In the country, it has been 12 tons, or 100,000 t-shirts, since the company’s sustainability campaign launched in December 2014. Still pretty little, said Dan Mejia, communications and press manager for its local unit.
But for every kilo piled, they will donate P1 to UNICEF Philippines. “Right now, we owe them about P12,000,” Mejia told Rappler on Tuesday, August 25, at the preview of their “Denim Re-born” Collection.
Jeans made through environmentally-conscious means
There are several facets to consider when a business makes a stride toward a good cause.
There is, of course, the indirect way revenues may be made. H&M’s initiative can attract greater footfall for the 6 outlets in the metro – the SM Fairview branch being the latest addition. Every bag handed in is rewarded with a voucher that one can exchange for discounted goods in the next visit.
Meanwhile, the eco-friendly end belongs to the emerging trend dubbed as "ethical fashion" in the $1.8-trillion industry, as estimated by intelligence firm Euromonitor International. A fashion brand adopts a business model that integrates environmentally-conscious means in manufacturing its products.
Mejia explained that “Denim Re-born” resulted from the partnership between them and the consumers, a push toward closing the loop.
“All of the denim collection is made of recycled garment, right from the garment collection initiative. Those donated garment were turned into this awesome collection,” he said.
H&M is dishing out this collection to reinforce the habit among buyers of lessening their impact on the environment. One can soon find in local H&M stores these denim pants, jumpsuits, and jackets made from a blend of recycled cotton and organic cotton.
Essentially, previously-existing clothing gets worn again in another form. This is because part of the raw materials used to make the denim pieces are reclaimed fibers. They came from old garb that can no longer be marketed as second-hand goods or converted to other products such as cleaning cloths.
Filipinos as sustainable-fashion shoppers
Ethical Fashion may not sound new at all in a country with a growing number of green warriors and enthusiasts.
According to a 2014 Nielsen Global of Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in June 2014, 8 in 10 Philippine-based buyers showed willingness to pay extra for products and services coming from companies with a clear social and environmental thrust.
This behavior is reflective of a much larger movement in Asia and the world. In Japan, for example, department stores compel customers to patronize them through socially- and environmentally-sound approaches such as fair trade, organic and natural materials, upcycling, and traditional craftsmanship.
Photo by Shadz Loresco
Writer Yuiko Mitani made this analysis in a Euromonitor blog, wherein she also noted that “Japanese consumers are seeing more value in shopping experiences with a meaning and storylines through products they purchase.”
Likewise, in a Rappler interview earlier this year, H&M’s Southeast Asia country manager Fredrick Famm said: “Filipinos are well-travelled and well-informed about global trends. It’s increasingly important for them to buy not only what look good on them but also feel good on them.”
Walls that once separated sellers and buyers have crumbled. Now, individuals or collectives can stop purchasing from businesses whose values they disagree with. Further, they can send firms a message regarding an event that is wasteful or harmful to the environment, or a process that leads to the unfair treatment of workers.
On the other hand, the fashion industry can enhance this power by providing consumers with a fun option during the buying process – allowing them to take part in closing the loop, in limiting the waste ending up in landfills.
Forming an emotional connection with consumers is what H&M also strives for, according to communications chief Mejia.
The global fast-fashion group is well aware of the social media effect, where an action leaving a negative impression can quickly go viral via Facebook, Twitter, and other popular online channels.
When asked how much have been converted to revenues from the clothing collection initiative, Mejia said they do not “count in terms of how this is supposed to give us a particular return”. Instead, the money derived from it is used to reward customers, make donations to local charity organizations, and invest in recycling innovation.
“We’re not counting anything,” he added. “But I think it gives us an advantage. [And] it’s more of what I say a great advantage for customers to choose us over other brands.” – Rappler.com