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H&M Sustainability Report Outlines Where the Brand Is Heading

But can fast fashion ever truly be sustainable?
H&M Times Square. Photo: Anna Webber/Getty Images

H&M Times Square. Photo: Anna Webber/Getty Images

Fast fashion chain H&M, which, in recent years has advertised its commitment to sustainable practices with recycling programs and "Conscious Collections," has released its 2014 Conscious Action Sustainability Report.

The report details how the company did last year when it came to existing programs and practices; for example, the brand's in-store recycling program, for which it offered customers a discount in exchange for old clothing, brought in some 13,000 tons of clothing. It also outlines how the brand plans to move forward in the coming years, including new commitments to animal welfare (like responsibly-sourced down for its home goods), and using renewable resources for 80 percent of its electricity.

Of course, the fundamental issue with fast fashion and sustainability is that, by nature, fast fashion is not sustainable. With relatively low quality, low prices and frequent merchandise drops, the whole system is designed to get consumers buying and disposing of clothes at a rapid rate. As sustainability strategist Shannon Whitehead has pointed out, many benchmarks for sustainability ignore labor practices, which is one of the biggest points of contention for consumers who have become more aware of poor working conditions in countries like Bangladesh following the Rana Plaza collapse of 2013. The report promises that the brand will continue to "choose and reward responsible partners" by offering fair living wages. 

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The report can be read in full on H&M's website.