H&M Sustainability Report: CO2 Emissions Drop 5% in 2011
Swedish clothing retailer and manufacturer Hennes & Mauritz, commonly known as H&M, last year achieved its target of a five percent year-on-year reduction in its carbon emissions, according to the company’s 2011 corporate sustainability report.
The company’s CO2-equivalent emissions per million SEK ($148,500) of sales were 3.16 metric tons, down from 3.33 in 2010. H&M says the reduction was achieved through reducing the transportation of goods via air by 32 percent, improving energy efficiency in its stores and offsetting using Gold Standard-verified carbon reduction projects.
The company has maintained a five percent year-on-year reduction trajectory since 2009, its baseline year. In 2009 the company produced 3.5 metric tons per million SEK sales.
In 2011 3.3 percent of the retailer’s carbon footprint was Scope 1 emissions and 61 percent was scope 2 emissions. Scope 3 emissions accounted for 35.6 percent of the footprint (See graph below). In 2010, Scope 1 emissions accounted for 2.3 percent, Scope 2 was 54.4 percent and Scope 3 was 43.3 percent.
Last year, 53.9 percent of the company’s emissions came from store electricity use, up from 49 percent in 2010. However, the company has cut total energy use in its stores measured against square-footage of retail space by three percentage points year-on-year and by 11 percent against a 2007 baseline, so this increase in the proportion of emissions from stores is more a reflection of the company’s reduction of travel emissions – shown by the 32 percent reduction in air travel and a move to increased use of rail freight at the expense of road freight. The firm is targeting a 20 percent cut in its store energy use by 2020 against a 2007 baseline, the report says.
H&M is hoping to achieve this goal by building new stores using energy-efficient building methods and focusing on energy efficiency in existing stores, the report says. One example is the company’s efforts to increase its use of LED lights. Such lights use up to 75 percent less energy compared to neon strip lighting, the company says. In 2011 H&M made it a requirement to use LEDs for logo signs in all of its newly built stores. During 2011 alone this shift has saved 470 metric tons of CO2 equivalent from the company’s footprint – roughly the emissions caused by the electricity use of about 60 households in one year. The company plans to gradually replace the signs across all its stores as they are rebuilt or refurbished.
The company does not give absolute figures for water use, but it does monitor water efficiency at its suppliers’ factories, and focuses on factories in water-scarce areas, the report says. The proportion of H&M’s supplier factories that use more than 200 liters of water to create 1 kg of final clothes – the company’s least efficient category – has increased two percent to 11 percent year-on year. The proportion of its supplier factories using less than 100 liters of water to manufacture 1 kg of final clothes – the company’s most efficient category – has declined by two percent, from 72 percent to 70 percent, in the same time period.
Two years ago H&M embarked on a program that cut 50 million liters of water from its denim production. The company worked with suppliers in China, Pakistan and Bangladesh – a country in which H&M says its water conservation message has been relatively hard to promote due to the country’s free water supply. In 2011 the program targeted a 100 million liter reduction in water use, but resulted in cutting 300 million liters from production.
H&M does not supply waste production figures but the report details its recycling efforts. Through the use of reusable boxes for transport the company says it saved the equivalent of 400,000 trees in 2011. Some 90 percent of the material used for making the company’s mail order packages is recycled cardboard, and 100 percent of its plastic bags are made of recycled material.
In March Greenpeace alleged that clothing from H&M, Adidas, Ralph Lauren and Nike, among others, discharges a significant amount of hazardous chemicals into water systems when washed by customers. Among the samples that Greenpeace tested, those companies’ clothes emitted the highest percentage of nonylphenol ethoxylates on the first wash, according to “Dirty Laundry: Reloaded: How big brands are making consumers unwitting accomplices in the toxic water cycle.“
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