H&M Foundation calls for digital innovations in latest sustainability awards

H&M Foundation – the non-profit arm of the H&M Group – has launched the next round of its circularity awards, this time honing in on startups focused on digital innovations.

H&M Foundation Global Change Award
H&M Foundation Global Change Award

H&M Foundation – the non-profit arm of the H&M Group – has launched the next round of its circularity awards, this time honing in on startups focused on digital innovations.

The fourth Global Change Award, will be open as usual to those breaking barriers with new materials and recycling – as has been seen with many previous winners – but there will be an extra eye on those using digital processes to make a significant impact on efficiency, planning and resource use.

“In previous years we ?ve seen brilliant and unexpected entries on recycling and new materials. Orange Fiber, Grape Leather and last year’s winner Crop-A-Porter are just some of the teams developing bold ideas and making great progress. And maybe more importantly, they make us rethink what a fabric is and what it can be made of. But to scale fashion’s transformation, new materials alone will not be enough,” explains H&M Foundation’s innovation lead, Erik Bang.

He pushes instead for those thinking about digitalization for the entire supply chain – from making raw materials to a garment’s end of life. “Digitalization has the potential to disrupt at the root, reinvent how things are done and help producers, sellers and customers to become circular,” he comments.

Such a call comes at a time when the fashion industry is being increasingly held to account for the impact it has on the planet. Both the H&M brand and other players such as Burberry, for instance, have recently hit headlines for the vast volume of unsold inventory they have, and the lengths they’re going to in order to get rid of it.

Meanwhile, a recent report by Quantis called Measuring Fashion, shows that fashion stands for 8.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is about the same footprint as the European Union.

“To speed up the shift to a circular fashion industry, we must find solutions changing how we buy, ship, produce, use, dye and design fashion garments,” Bang notes.

The Global Change Award is accordingly about impact and scalability. Five chosen winners each year receive a split of EUR 1m, and join a yearlong accelerator program. Previous years have seen over 8,000 entries from 151 countries.

Applications for this year’s entry are open until October 17, with the winners to be crowned at the Grand Award Ceremony in Stockholm City Hall in April 2019.

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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.