New Cotton Project: Introducing H&M

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The EU 2020 Horizon funded New Cotton Project, brings together twelve pioneering players to demonstrate a circular model for commercial garment production.

This month we meet Cecilia McNeil, Lead for Sustainability Assortment at H&M to discuss her role in the project.

Please give an overview of your company and job role.

H&M is a global fashion brand with a mission to provide fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way to our customers. Sustainability is at the core of our business, our goal is for 100 percent of our materials to come from recycled or other more sustainable sources by 2030 (today we are at 80%) and we have set the ambition to be climate positive by 2040. 

Our goal is for 100 percent of our materials to come from recycled or other more sustainable sources by 2030.

I work as the lead for H&M’s sustainability assortment. In my role I focus on supporting our buying teams to achieve our set goals within sustainability. I work a lot with new, innovative materials, such as Infinna™  that are more sustainable and that could help us in our journey to become circular. It’s very inspiring and interesting.  In the New Cotton project I’m the project leader for H&M, I really consider this to be so important in order to drive our business towards circularity.

What is your participation in the New Cotton Project?

H&M’s role in the project is designing, manufacturing and launching apparel products made with the recycled fibers from Infinited Fiber company. This project will demonstrate a circular business model, enabling the use of lower quality textile waste and turning this waste stream into new, high quality, more sustainable functional textiles. As the project manager for H&M I am making sure we all align internally and achieve our set goals.

What challenges and pitfalls do you think will arise in the New Cotton Project?

Reaching the timeline is always a risk when working on a project spanning over several years. Getting to know and working with a new and innovative material can also be challenging but at the same time that’s also what makes the project so interesting – that we as a consortium test, try and learn together. This project is quite unique as so many partners have formed a consortium together meaning that everyone has to succeed in their part for the project as a whole to be successful.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities in collaboration?

The main win with this project is the collaboration between all parties and that all parts of the value chain are represented. This gives us an opportunity to map the full ecosystem. I genuinely believe that collaboration and breaking barriers is crucial – we need to work together in order to achieve a circular business model within fashion retail. It will be great to see the output of Infinna™ – a high-quality cotton-like fiber which is fully biodegradable.

Where do you see the future of circularity in the fashion and textiles industry?

The fashion industry needs to decouple its dependency on limited natural resources. The only way to achieve that is through creating a circular ecosystem where nothing goes to waste. This spans from production to the way we consume and use fashion. I think that many changes are to come in the near future. Hopefully, we will start to look at textiles in another way, that they are resources that can be used again and again. Developing new materials is an important part in achieving this – and that’s why this project is both exciting and important.

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