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H&M Foundation launches third annual Global Change Award, announces groundbreaking recycling solution

H&M Foundation, the non-profit arm to the H&M retail business, has opened its annual Global Change Award for entries.

H&M Foundation's Global Change Award
H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award

H&M Foundation, the non-profit arm to the H&M retail business, has opened its annual Global Change Award for entries. Designed to accelerate the shift from a linear to a circular fashion industry, it is seeking those out there trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of innovation.

A total grant of €1 million is up for grabs; a sum that will be distributed between five early stage businesses. Those winners will also get to join a one-year accelerator programme designed to help speed up the development of their innovations and maximise the impact on the industry. The programme is provided by H&M Foundation in partnership with Accenture and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Previous winning innovations included leather made from wine leftovers, digital threads weaved into garments to ease the recycling processes, and climate positive nylon made from water, plant waste and solar energy. Last year there were more than 2,800 entries from 130 countries.

“Now in its third year, the Global Change Award has really become a positive force in the fashion industry. It has proven to be a true catalyst for the winners, giving them support and access to a valuable network so they can bring their innovations to the market quicker and better prepared. I’m really curious to see what disruptive innovations we will receive this time,” says Karl-Johan Persson, board member of H&M Foundation and CEO of H&M.

An expert panel of judges with extensive knowledge within fashion, the environment, circularity and innovation, select the five winners, and it’s then up to the public to distribute the €1million grant through an online vote nearer to the launch date in early 2018.

Said Professor Edwin Keh, CEO of The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) and a member of the expert panel for the award: “Sustainable and responsible consumption is the way forward. We must find better ways to make what we use, and wisely use what we have. The Global Change Award is an important initiative to drive this forward. By intentionally and thoughtfully reusing, recycling, and repurposing, we can drive significant and radical improvements to our world.”

In other news, H&M Foundation and HKRITA just announced a groundbreaking solution to recycle blend textiles into new fabrics and yarns, without any quality loss, through a hydrothermal (chemical) process. The finding is referred to as a major breakthrough in the journey towards a closed loop for textiles.

“For too long the fashion industry has not been able to properly recycle its products, since there’s no commercially viable separation, sorting, and recycling technology available for the most popular materials such as cotton and polyester blends. This very encouraging finding has the potential to change that. We are very excited to develop this technology and scale it beyond the laboratory, which will benefit the global environment, people and communities,” said Erik Bang, innovation lead at H&M Foundation.

The technology will be scaled up and made available to the global fashion industry to ensure broad market access and maximum impact.

The other panellists for the Global Change Award include Bandana Tewari, editor-at-large, Vogue India; Chiling Lin, actress and sustainability influencer; Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation; David Roberts: distinguished faculty at Singularity University; Lewis Perkins, president of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute; Sophia Bendz, executive in residence at Atomico; Steven Kolb, president and CEO of The Council of Fashion Designers of America; Vikram Widge, head of Climate Finance & Policy, IFC, World Bank Group; and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, youth director of Earth Guardians.

By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.

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