In the world of clothing, H&M is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, boasting over 4,000 stores in 72 countries. And Dan Mejia, who heads communications for the company in the Philippines, has been at the forefront of the label, using his many years of experience to help further the brand.
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Mejia sits down with Reese Fernandez of Rags2Riches in an episode of Heroes and Titans. Here, he shares with Fernandez about the many innovations that H&M has developed for sustainability, while sharing what he desires for the future. Heroes and Titans is ANCX’s video conversation series on making the world a better place.
What Mejia appreciates most about the brand is how value-focused it is toward their employees. “We live by values every day, and that resonates with my own values," he says. “And, I think that’s important with any person working in the company.”
Thinking of the planet
The idea of sustainability is present in H&M, and using long-lasting materials along with cutting-edge designs is a big part of their philosophy.
“The business idea has always been to offer customers fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way,” says Mejia. “That has always been our guiding light whenever we do anything at H&M.”
Mejia acknowledges the cost of this vision, and fully believes that this is important for the future of fashion. “We don’t want our customer to have a throwaway attitude, so we want them to take care of the clothes for as long as possible. And the best—not the cheapest—price according to how it was made, and to the fabric,” he explains. “In the long run, this will be better for the planet and the people, and at the same time for the business.”
So how are these initiatives affected by mass production and fast fashion?
“In 11 years, we will be 8.6 billion people on this planet. Out of that, 3 billion will belong to the global middle income class,” Mejia explains. “With this growing population, there’s a need to create jobs and livelihoods to enable social development for both individuals and communities.”
He believes that due to the speed and advancements of production, the Earth’s resources will be fully exhausted by 2030. Therefore, creating a sustainable product, with what little time we currently have is important.
“How can we continue to provide fashion to enable fair jobs and social developments to happen, but doing so within the planetary boundary?” he asks. “We’ve set an ambitious vision, and that is to use our size and scale to lead the change to circular and renewable fashion, while being a fair and equal company.”
Step by step
Proud of the company's many efforts for sustainability, Mejia gives the H&M’s conscious collection as an example. Part of this movement allows customers to return clothes of any brand to the store, which is a key to sustainable fashion. But he believes that there is still a lot more to be done.
Among these efforts are using materials to make clothing that will use both less water, less energy, and re-thinking the way raw materials are being made. He also adds looking after the factories that work with the company, by cooperating with the owners and the government to ensure fair wages and good conditions.
Mejia says that consumer use is where most of the environmental impact happens, which the brand aims to rectify with clevercare.info. This is a program in which consumers are taught how to take better care of what they buy.
“If you click on each product, you could find out who made your clothes, where it was made, which factory, the address of the factory, what it’s made of. So it’s transparent. It allows for customers to better decide for their purchases. And then at the same time, you talk about customer use,” he elaborates.
The steps H&M are taking toward sustainability are pivotal for the near future. “We have a three step vision. For 2020, we want to be able to use 100 percent recycled or sustainably sourced cotton. So far, one year ahead of it we’re at 95 percent," Mejia says with pride. “For 2030, our goal is to use 100 percent recycled or sustainably sourced material across all H&M garments, and so far we are at 57 percent. Then, by 2040, we want to be 100 percent climate positive all throughout our value chain.”
Hope for the future
As an idealist, Mejia thinks that the environmental problems plaguing the world can be fixed, and urges others to do their part in finding solutions. He quotes polar explorer and Antartica conservationist Robert Swan: "the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it."
Then how can we solve this crisis? “You can be big or small, and you can be yourself," he says. You have to know that you’re part of the 7.6 billion people, he goes on, and you have to understand that you're no different from everyone else.
"Whatever you do, whether you buy or drink coffee, or walk or drive to work, or even shop for new clothes—everything that you do leaves an impact and collectively that’s big. So, I think it’s good that we think about our surroundings not just about ourselves.”