The trendy Swedish clothing retailer H&M is in trouble over false claims of donating goods to charities. The company was also found burning tons of unused clothes while campaigning for sustainable economy.
For years, H&M Sweden has claimed it donated defective and unsold goods to charities. “Clothes that fail to meet quality requirements are donated to charity organizations such as Oxfam, Caritas, the Red Cross and Terre des Hommes, its website claimed.
However, an investigation by Swedish national broadcaster SVT revealed that Red Cross branches in Stockholm and Örebro were the only charities in Sweden, Scandinavia and the whole of Europe to receive discarded H&M garments.
“We have not received any H&M clothes in Sweden or elsewhere. We have checked with Oxfam in the UK as well,” Oxfam Sweden communications manager Robert Höglund told SVT. “Of course it’s regrettable when the published information is wrong. It’s sad if our brand is used in this way,” he added.
“It’s not right to use our name for false marketing by saying they donate clothes to Caritas, unless they really do of course,” George Joseph of Caritas Sweden concurred.
In an email to SVT, H&M admitted that the information on its website was old and should be reviewed. The company also stated that it donated to another organization called Helping Hands. However, Helping Hands claimed that they had previously terminated their cooperation with H&M and have not received any clothes in a year and a half.
Following the outcry, H&M Sweden removed all information about charities from its website.
To add insult to injury, however, H&M, a stalwart campaigner for recycling, was found to have burnt 19 tons of newly produced clothes in mint condition at a thermal plant in the city of Västerås in 2016 alone, an amount of clothing equaling 50,000 pairs of jeans. Earlier this autumn, the Danish news channel TV2 revealed that 9.6 tons of clothing were burned in that country in 2016.
Oddly enough, H&M’s annual sustainability report failed to mention a single word about incinerating new clothes.
“We definitely see this as a problem we want to address,” H&M environmental director Cecilia Strömblad Brännsten said. “From an environmental perspective, we obviously want our products to have as long a life as possible,” she added.
Swedish Environment Minister Karolina Skog was highly critical of H&M’s burning habits, pointing out that the clothing industry ranks second after the oil industry in terms of polluting the environment.
According to H&M, the incineration process only applies to garments damaged by mold or moisture during transportation, as well as clothes containing too high levels of hazardous chemicals.
Founded in 1947, H&M (abbreviation for Hennes & Mauritz) is the world’s second-largest global clothing retailer with subsidiaries in 62 countries, over 4,500 stores and a staff of over 130,000 people.
Manufacturing a single pair of jeans requires about 20,000 liters (5,283 gallons) of water and yields about 9 kilograms (19 pounds) of carbon dioxide emissions.