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

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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H&M Foundation announces innovation winners for 2018 Global Change Awards

The 2018 H&M Foundation Global Change Award winners
The 2018 H&M Foundation Global Change Award winners

The H&M Foundation, the non-profit arm of the H&M group, has announced the innovations fronting its third annual Global Change Awards.

The competition, which is focused on finding early-stage innovations, aims to help speed up the shift from a linear to a circular fashion industry in order to protect the planet.

Innovation is at the heart of that, with the applications this year spanning everything from biomimicry, nanomaterials and robotics to connected supply chains, wearables and bio-based materials. Interestingly, most solutions came from innovators outside of the fashion industry.

In total there were 2,600 entries from 151 countries. The resulting five selected innovations include Crop-A-Porter, which uses leftovers from food crop harvests to make sustainable bio-textiles; Algae Apparel, which turns algae into bio-fiber and eco-friendly dye that is also good for the skin; Smart Stitch, a dissolvable thread that makes repairing and recycling a breeze; The Regenerator, which recirculates fashion by separating cotton and polyester blends, turning them into new textile fiber; and Fungi Fashion, a custom-made clothes line made from decomposable mushroom roots.

“How we manage and consume resources will be crucial for the lives of present and future gene¬rations. All industries need to re-think, innovate and challenge status quo. Creative innovations are key to make this shift, and I congratulate the Global Change Awards winners who all have the power to help reinvent the fashion industry, enabling products and resources to be cycled instead of just having one single life”, says Karl-Johan Persson, Board member H&M Foundation and CEO H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB.

Between them the winners get a split of a one million euro grant. Members of the public are currently invited to vote for their favorite to help decide how that sum gets divvied up, which will be announced at the ceremony later this month.

The aim of the award, which also includes a yearlong accelerator program in partnership with Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, is to not only raise awareness of the innovation that exists, but to drive scalability and ultimately partnerships.

These winning innovations are not for H&M specifically, but for the whole industry, with the Foundation focused on connecting them across the board. “That’s super important from our perspective. Partly because it’s a legal requirement for us [as a non-profit], but also because H&M is a big player but also a small part of a huge industry. For impact we have to include everybody,” Erik Bang, innovation lead of the H&M Foundation, tells me.

Winners in the past have included everything from a silk-like textile made from citrus juice through to a leather made from grapes. There’s also been a solar-powered solution to creating nylon and an RFID tag the size of a thread to identify material blends at the recycling stage.

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Fashion Positive launches ‘Innovators Hub’ for circular materials development

The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute's Fashion Positive Initiative has launched the Innovators Hub
The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s Fashion Positive Initiative has launched the Innovators Hub

Fashion Positive has launched a new resource centre for the growing circular fashion movement; aiming to facilitate material innovation.

The Innovators Hub is created with funding from the non-profit H&M Foundation. It provides access to critical resources for innovators working to drive circular materials development.

Fashion Positive is an initiative from the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. The hub accordingly provides direction on the innovation of safer, healthier materials developed in accordance with the principles of the Cradle to Cradle Certified product standard.

“At a time when resource scarcity and growing global population make positive change ever more urgent, the rapid innovation of safer, healthier materials offers one of the fastest routes to achieving a circular economy. The Fashion Positive Innovation Hub aims to accelerate this process for the fashion industry,” said Lewis Perkins, president of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

“The momentum for a better future for fashion is growing quickly. Finding ways to improve the health, safety and recyclability of materials already in production, as well as innovate new materials made for the circular economy, will transform the fashion industry from the designer´s drawing board to the supply chain and consumer. This ultimately benefits the global environment, people and communities,” said Erik Bang, Innovation Lead at H&M Foundation.

The hub offers a library of videos and interactive tools on circular economy, as well as access to the Fashion Positive network, which includes investors, accelerators, brands and manufacturers in a bid to connect innovators with the resources and support necessary to bring projects to scale.

There’s also the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute MaterialWise tool, which allows users to screen for known hazards via free access to the Cradle to Cradle Certified v3 banned list and v4 restricted substances list, as well as the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) manufacturing restricted substances list v1.1.

“Until now, creating safe, healthy circular materials that also meet designers’ requirements for performance, quality and aesthetics has been a notoriously challenging process,” said Annie Gullingsrud, director – textiles and apparel sector for the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. “The Fashion Positive Innovators Hub has been designed to simplify the material innovation process by addressing the three biggest challenges currently faced by material innovators in fashion: education and know-how, technical assistance, and funding opportunities.”

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

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.

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H&M Foundation empowers women with list of 500 all-female entrepreneurs

Elankumaran Selvmalar, one of the Foundation 500 women
Elankumaran Selvmalar, one of the Foundation 500 women

H&M’s non-profit arm has launched an alternative to the Fortune 500 list, published each year by Fortune magazine. Foundation 500, as it’s called, showcases female-only business leaders from around the world.

Done in partnership with humanitarian agency, CARE, the aim is to challenge stereotypes and redefine what a business leader looks like. The initiative ties to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals on women’s empowerment and gender equality, which demonstrate that empowering women is one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty and create economic growth.

The stories of successful women from 11 emerging countries, including Burundi, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Jordan, Peru and Zambia, among others, are told, alongside imagery captured by Malin Fezehai in a style similar to that of business magazines covers.

“The entrepreneur is the hero of our time, and it is estimated that over the coming years over 1 billion women will enter the workforce – a majority through entrepreneurship. But, you can’t be what you can’t see. Women rarely make the covers of business magazines, in fact the last time a woman was on the cover of Fortune Magazine was October 2014. With the Foundation 500 list we want to redefine what a business leader looks like,” says Diana Amini, global manager at H&M Foundation.

Further women in the Foundation 500: Karunakuran Kirupaliny, Philomène Tia And Suriyanti
Further women in the Foundation 500: Karunakuran Kirupaliny, Philomène Tia And Suriyanti

The 500 women included are a representation of the 100,000 participating in the Global Program on Empowering Women through Enterprise Development initiated by H&M Foundation and CARE in 2014. From 2014-2020, H&M Foundation has pledged 120 million Swedish krona ($14 million/€12 million) to support over 200,000 women entrepreneurs from emerging markets with seed capital and skills training to start and expand their businesses.

”Born with zero privilege, the women portrayed in the Foundation 500 list have made their own fortunes in the harshest of startup-environments. Yet, their stories often go untold. I wish I had seen women like these on the cover of business magazines when I grew up in South Sudan,” said British/Sudanese supermodel, entrepreneur and H&M Foundation Ambassador, Alek Wek.

“Media can play an important role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by unveiling inspiring stories helping to change mindsets of what women entrepreneurs can achieve and giving role models a platform to show what is possible. This can contribute to changes in convictions, attitudes, behaviour, rules, regulations and policies,” the write-up from the Foundation reads.