The growing trend of sustainable shopping is spurring change in the fashion world, and the head of fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz AB, or H&M, called the shift a “social” threat.
H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson, the third in his family to hold the helm of the fast-fashion company, told Bloomberg that he was concerned about protests that encourage consumers to “‘stop doing things, stop consuming, stop flying.'”
“Yes, that may lead to a small environmental impact, but it will have terrible social consequences,” Persson said.
Fashion has taken heat in recent years for the industry’s role in producing 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions through manufacturing and distribution, in addition to water pollution, textile waste, and social burdens of low-quality working conditions.
“The climate issue is incredibly important,” Persson said. “It’s a huge threat and we all need to take it seriously – politicians, companies, individuals.”
“At the same time,” he continued, “the elimination of poverty is a goal that’s at least as important.”
H&M, which also owns brands Cos, Weekday, H&M Home, and Arket, has been one of the most vocal companies to address its efforts in reducing the negative impact of fast fashion, touting initiatives like textile innovation and clothing recycling programs.
Persson said fashion retailers should push to be more sustainable, but must also continue to drive sales.
“We must reduce the environmental impact,” Persson told Bloomberg. “At the same time, we must also continue to create jobs, get better healthcare and all the things that come with economic growth.”
Persson added that he was primarily concerned with developing “environmental innovation, renewable energy, improved materials,” like the company’s programs that roll out solar panels for factories and its foray into unconventional but sustainable fabrics like citrus peel.
Vogue Business previously reported that the company first started exploring structural changes when its sales and profits fell and left $4.3 billion of clothes unsold as of early 2018, after the retailer enjoyed nearly 20 successful years that saw it grow to the second-largest garment company in the world.