Collaboration is key for fashion businesses to embrace circular economy – interview with Mattias Bodin, Sustainability Expert at H&M
16th April 2018 in Mind Space Warsaw we celebrated the launch of new Conscious Exclusive collection which brings new materials: recycledsilver and ECONYL®, a regenerated nylon fibre from fishnets and other nylon waste. Using these materials is a step towards the company 2030 goal to only use recycled or other sustainably sourced materials. I had a chance to find out more about it from Mattias Bodin, Sustainability Business Expert at H&M group. My Q&A with Mattias below!
I had a great opportunity and pleasure to chair a panel with Agnieszka Knera (Sustainability Manager H&M Poland), Dariusz Duma (philosopher, business consultant), Rafał Rudzki (Senior Manager, Deloitte Sustainability Consulting Central Europe ) and Areta Szpura (influencer and activist).
Fashion companies wanting to be at the forefront of innovation are working on how to embody circular economy principles and close the loop, often in partnership with outside innovators. Next to H&M, we find examples from other brands like: C&A launching a Cradle-to-Cradlecertified T-shirt, Parley for the Ocean partnership with Adidas and Nike Grind to name the most popular ones.
Ola: It is still hard for me to envision H&M complete transition to recycled or other sustainably sourced materials only. Did you divide this process into smaller steps to make it more tangible? At which stage are you now?
Mattias: We initiated the process by working with materials we use most, and those we prioritise. We have a few options that are available and can be scaled up, such as: sustainable cotton and recycled poliester. So for those popular materials we are in the phase of scaling up their presence in the collection, but there are many other materials that are not really commercially available yet so to posses them we are engaging with researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs to support them in taking the next step. We have a pretty high amount of organic cotton, but it is limited in supply, and we aim to use more and more recycled cotton made from collected post consumer waste (worn and returned garments). In fact other organic materials we use, as: linen, jute, hemp are also difficult in terms of availability in the volumes that we operate on.
Ola: So you mentioned collaborations and supporting startups in the sector of new material development. You do that also through H&M Foundation Global Change Award and by collaborating with: I:CO, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation and others…Can you tell me what is the nature of this sort of partnerships? How are they important?
Mattias: Yes, this is not something that we can do ourselves. We are in an industry that will change completely. It’s not really enough for the environment if we change only. There must be a holistic change on the industrial level. We are also very active in assosiations such as: Textile Exchange, to which some of our competitors also belong. We are competitors as fashion retailers, but for the sustainable textiles industry, it is more at the stage of growth, where it needs investment, research and knowledge sharing…so it does make a lot of sense to cooperate.
We are in an industry that will change completely. It’s not really enough for the environment if we change only. There must be a holistic change on the industrial level
Ola: What are the ways of boosting innovation within H&M structures?
Mattias: We have H&M Foundation and Global Change Award, supporting 5 sustainable innovations each year, but H&M group are also doing direct investment into sustainable fashion, such as companies developing technology for recycling poliester or celulosic fibres for example. That’s one of the many ways that we are engaged in projects with researchers and innovators to supportour development. Building that network of contacts is vital to inspire and influence change even by meetings and bouncing ideas.