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Maisie Williams Joins H&M as ‘Sustainability Ambassador,’ But Both Face Greenwashing Claims

(Avatar Maisie; Credit: H&M)

H&M’s drive to encourage the “reuse, remaking and recycling of unwanted garments” in the fashion world now features  actress Maisie Williams, well-known for her role in Game of Thrones, as the company’s “global sustainability ambassador.” The company, striving toward a goal of only using recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030, says Williams will help drive change in fashion.

But with this new campaign, H&M has come under fire from sustainability activists and social media campaigners for greenwashing, with the message being that the company should work to more directly reduce its impact on the environment and stop contributing to climate change, writes the Independent. As one Twitter user wrote, “We don’t need paid celebrity ‘sustainability ambassadors,’ we need sustainability experts who actually know what they are talking about. There is a reason said experts are constantly calling H&M out as one of the worst offenders.”

In 2019, H&M global sustainability manager Pascal Brun acknowledged that one of its sustainability efforts — a consumer-facing transparency program — would not “change the world” (via the New York Times). “But it is about building a foundation for real change, given we can’t build this industry from the ground up all over again,” he is quoted as saying. One of the leaders in the so-called fast fashion industry, H&M sells an estimated three billion garments a year, the Times wrote.

More on Maisie

The first joint action of the new partnership with Williams is the launch of “H&M Looop Island,” in Nintendo’s popular Animal Crossing: New Horizons game. Named after H&M’s garment recycling machine Looop, which takes old clothes and recycles them into new ones, Looop Island has been designed with a sustainable theme. On April 13, players were able to meet Williams, along with Brun, to learn about recycling and circular fashion. On Looop Island, players can recycle their game outfits into new ones in the virtual version of H&M’s Looop Machine.

Throughout 2021, H&M and the actor and filmmaker, who’s also an active voice for the environment, will embark on several initiatives around circularity. One piece of the partnership includes the introduction of Williams’ digital twin  — Avatar Maisie — created by 3D animators at Goodbye Kansas Studio. “Avatar Maisie and real-life Maisie will make several appearances throughout the coming year, engaging with H&M customers and inspiring action,” H&M says.

Other Sustainability Efforts from H&M

H&M has launched a number of environmental efforts in recent years, including a sustainable active wear line, a clothing resale platform, and its clothing transparency platform for items sold online. The company also helped launch an effort dubbed Project Effective, a collaboration meant to produce more sustainable fibers and plastics for commercial use – and to increase adoption of sustainable materials – by using renewable feedstocks and bio based technologies.

‘Change or Die’

Sustainability efforts from the fashion industry are not just necessary from a climate change perspective. A 2020 report from Boston Consulting Group, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and technology company Higg Co. suggested that fashion companies that do not embrace sustainability will lose their competitive edge, particularly as the world begins to recover from the effects of Covid-19. “This is a moment of truth for fashion industry players,” said Javier Seara, Boston Consulting Group’s managing director, partner, and global leader for the fashion and luxury sector. “Companies will need to change, and are already changing their businesses to adapt to the new reality. Relentlessly incorporating sustainability practices into these changes will be the critical factor that separates winners from idlers.”

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