It was only 10-15 years ago H&M used to lock its supplier list in a safe in Stockholm, with only five people having the code to get to it. That move was about competitive advantage, Nina Shariati, who is responsible for the retail group’s transparency efforts worldwide, explains in our most recent edition of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.
A disclosed supplier list is now old news for the business, but it kickstarted its goal to have transparency as a red thread through everything it does. “It’s been a journey,” Shariati explains.
Her role is to set the strategy connected to what type of data it wants to be transparent with and to then make that happen. The group’s most recent efforts including adding a layer of transparency to the actual product pages of its new Arket brand, for instance.
That sort of move is all part of a wider effort to become a more sustainable organization. H&M’s focus is to offer “fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way”. More specifically it has ambitious goals to be 100% leading the change, 100% circular and renewable, and 100% fair and equal.
The question is whether the second largest clothing retailer in the world can really ever be considered eco-conscious and sustainable while pumping out fast fashion?
The fact is millennial consumers seem to be more concerned about manufacturing practices and their effects on the environment than ever, Shariati explains. “We see it as a positive thing that we are a large company where we have [these ambitions] and we see that with the help of our size we can drive this change that we want to see.”
But she argues that this sort of consumer awareness is only possible if there is collaboration industry-wide. “Many challenges that we face as a brand are big challenges that are being recognized in the industry as a whole… No single brand can come up with a solution,” she explains. “What we want to do with transparency is to set a measuring index that harmonizes the industry, so you can compare your product across brands. We are far from the time where it’s ok to work in siloes.”
The ultimate goal, she notes, should be to empower consumers by enabling them to make more informed decisions. “Some consumers are aware some consumers will be more aware, and eventually we will have this harmonized way of measuring things. When that’s in place then consumer can make more active choices.”
TheCurrent Innovators is a podcast about the leaders pushing the boundaries of fashion, beauty, and retail. Hosted by Liz Bacelar and Rachel Arthur, and distributed by MouthMedia Network, each episode is a frank conversation about the challenges and opportunities faced by top brands and retailers around the world today, through the lens of technology. Check out some of the other highlights, including an interview with Stefano Rosso, CEO of Diesel, and William Tunstall-Pedoe, founder of the tech behind Amazon Alexa.
Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.