Greenwashing Exposed: Billie Eilish x H&M

Greenwashing Exposed: Billie Eilish x H&M

H&M has the best PR agents in the world. After a year of global headlines labeling the Sweedish fast-fashion giant as greenwashing king, they begin 2020 with the launch of a sustainable collaboration with the world’s hottest pop-star, Billie Eilish. The only problem is that the collection is not remotely sustainable.

A quick google search will reveal the power of PR.

The NY Post, GMA, MIC, WWD are among many major media outlets who took a press release from H&M, added a few of their own words, and published to their millions of followers without any research or due diligence. Since they didn’t, I will.

“Fast Fashion” is the antithesis of sustainability. The core of the H&M business model is to quickly produce millions of low-cost garments to deliver fashion-forward clothes in time for seasonal trends. As trends come and go, fast fashion gives the consumer an affordable option to catch up on the next trend and dispose of the old. Season after season, the cycle continues, and millions of garments go to waste globally. A fundamental goal of a sustainable brand is to produce less, not more. H&M cannot afford to do that. Without industry-changing innovation, H&M will never be a sustainable retailer.

The Collection

There are a total of 18 garments in the collection ranging from printed tops to belt bags. Only 2/18 (11%) are labeled “conscious” or sustainable.

To meet the requirement of the Conscious tag program, H&M garments

must contain at least 50% sustainable materials, such as organic cotton and recycled polyester. The only exception is recycled cotton, which can only make up 20% of a product due to quality restraints

With just 11% of the collection meeting their conscious standard, H&M broke its own rules by labeling the collection as sustainable.

The Merch

As there are only two sustainable items, this will be faster than “fast fashion”!

The Printed T-shirt Dress is composed of 100% cotton but not labeled as organic cotton in the composition. Only in the item description does it state, “T-shirt dress in soft, organic cotton jersey with a printed graphic design.” Labeling as organic in the description and not the composition is very suspicious. FTC labeling laws require companies to state garment composition. Falsely labeling garments is punishable by fines and the removal of products from commerce. Although labeling organic cotton as organic is not a requirement, the composition label is an opportunity for brands to boast organic claims. Why H&M does not label their conscious products as organic cotton is very suspicious.

The Oversized Joggers are composed of 60% cotton/40%polyester. Again, the cotton composition is not labeled as organic. (I cannot emphasize enough how suspicions this is) Their claim of 60% organic materials barely passes their low bar for sustainable labeling. Meanwhile, there is no information about their polyester sourcing.

The other 16 items are made from polyester, acrylic, and conventional cotton. Polyester and acrylic are both derived from oil and are generally characterized as one of the least sustainable fibers, especially when sourced cheaply in Asia.

H&M’s sustainability claims focus on the materials, but they neglect to shed light on the people that make the goods. In 2018, H&M factories across Asia (Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.) reported daily abuse. Despite pledging to pay living wages across their supply chain, the brand has not followed through on its promise. The Billie Eilish collection does not make any claims about the factories used, so I will assume it’s made with existing supply chain partners.

Conclusion: Billie Eilish x H&M is not sustainable…. it’s not even close

Who’s To Blame?

H&M is shameless when it comes to greenwashing and fake sustainability claims. I expect them to continue to use blatant greenwashing PR stunts until the industry or public can regulate sustainability claims. The company does not understand what it means to be sustainable and only uses the concept of sustainability as a marketing tool.

I put no blame on Billie Eilish or her team. I just hope they learn from this blunder.

On the other hand, Journalists are to blame for promoting H&M lies and deceptive marketing. It took me 2 minutes of research to figure out that the collection was not sustainably sourced; meanwhile, almost every major publication blindly took H&M for their word. SHAME ON THEM.

Jon K.

Jon Kirsner, MBA, MSBA, is a supply chain professional with a decade of experience in sustainable manufacturing. His industry experience has exposed him to the truth of the sustainable fashion and consumer goods industries. He does not write as a journalist but as an industry expert and passionate advocate.

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