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H&M has to work hard if it wants consumers to trust its sustainability claims again

Steven Li

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h&M

As fashion brands continue to compete on customer loyalty and profitability, it is becoming difficult for them to ignore environmental sustainability. Brands like Burberry have made unexpected commitments to sustainability, after burning millions of dollars worth of apparel. Starbucks attempted (and missed) a number of sustainability targets over the years, prompting questions regarding the company’s true intent in its initiatives. The true dilemma is when companies fail to be transparent and honest with their sustainability initiatives or are downright contradictory in their actions, it becomes a difficult task to regain trust in the eyes of their would-be loyal customers, whatever the company’s intent. H&M clearly falls into this category.

H&M’s greenwashing kerfuffle

A few months ago, regulators in Norway invoked the Marketing Control Act to point out that marketing materials a part of H&M’s Conscious collection, one aimed to be more environmentally sustainable, were too vague to be labelled “Conscious.” Specifically, a regulator told Quartz:

“Since H&M are not giving the consumer precise information about why these clothes are labeled Conscious, we conclude that consumers are being given the impression that these products are more ‘sustainable’ than they actually are.”

Journalists were also keen on criticizing H&M for not being transparent with their sustainability methodologies. Katherine Martinko, a writer at Treehugger.com, thought H&M’s Conscious collection was a clear attempt to “greenwash,” to appear more environmentally sustainable than it actually is.

Common criticisms and consumer dissent

Common concerns about H&M’s Conscious collection include that the company has been fairly brief in its elaboration of how its collection is actually more environmentally sustainable.

H&M Conscious Collection

Writer Tabitha Whiting summarizes these concerns well in her Medium post:

“Maybe it’s just me, but for an ‘explanation’ I’d expect a little more detail than just two short and sweet paragraphs. In terms of explaining why these products are ‘conscious’ and ‘sustainable’, the only justification given is that they use up to 50% recycled material (or 20% for cotton products) in production. However, they don’t go into detail about the types of items they’re recycling, how they’re recycled, how they’re produced, what the carbon footprint of these products is compared to their other ranges, or even what their definition of ‘sustainable’ is. It doesn’t feel very transparent.”

H&M might be appealing to the many consumers who aren’t looking carefully into what the company is actually doing for environmental sustainability, but in order to reach the passionate audience, it inevitably needs to do better.

At the moment, the company has published some insights as to what materials it considers sustainable, which third-party groups it works with to ensure its sustainability claims, and more. That’s a good first step, but more importantly, communicating more with its customer base is going to be crucial in helping the company regain trust among customers who are rightfully skeptical.

Here’s what H&M can do to make things right

It’s clear that H&M wants to be an innovator in the fast-fashion space: to be affordable, profitable, and sustainable. And obviously, the PR team at H&M works hard to get the word out about the company’s sustainability initiatives. Here are some actionable items that will help the company regain the trust lost among a sizable portion of former customers. Releasing the following details about your Conscious collection will help the public better understand your work at the company:

  1. Through what means are your materials being recycled?
  2. How are items in the Conscious collection being produced?
  3. What is the carbon footprint of items in the Conscious collection compared to those not in the Conscious collection?
  4. What are some milestones you hope to reach in the next year to meet your sustainability goals?

PR @ H&M, if you’re reading this, we’d like to hear from you and give you a platform to clarify these points for our audience. It sounds like you’d like to be a part of the group of companies dedicated to reducing their environmental footprint but you still have some explaining to do.

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This Restaurant Giant Is Making An Ambitious Commitment To Sustainable Packaging

Avery Maloto

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With 12 Taco Party Packs and refreshing Baja Blasts, there is no question as to how Taco Bell attracts over 40 million customers each week in the United States. Unfortunately, each of these orders presents a more pressing issue: sustainable packaging. 

Each year, only 29% of all fast-food containers and packaging are recovered. The rest accumulates in landfills, unable to serve another purpose in their lifetime. Fortunately, Taco Bell wants to address the issue of sustainable packaging.

Kicking 2020 off with a bang, the fast-food giant recently released a plan promising a sustainable mindset. Here’s what its plan is all about.

Sustainable Packaging: Recyclable, Compostable, and Reusable Products Only

Last week, Taco Bell announced its goal to make all consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025 world wide. 

With 7,000 stores open across the globe, the company sits as one of the largest fast-food corporations in the world. However, with this comes great environmental responsibility. Fortunately, Mark King, Taco Bell’s CEO, is already preparing for the company’s future.

In his own words, “As Taco Bell expands its footprint, our responsibility to drive positive impact increases.”

Taco Bell CEO Mark King emphasizes his company's increased focus on sustainability. 
Credit: Washington Speakers Bureau
Taco Bell CEO Mark King emphasizes his company’s increased focus on sustainability.
Credit: Washington Speakers Bureau

King adds, “Our business growth in the last decade has positioned us to create change for good and implement creative solutions for our planet, our people and our food. We’re excited to shake things up and make 2020 even more about what matters most: our purpose”.

Fast-Food Giant Eliminates Chemicals and Adds In-Store Recycling Opportunities

In order to achieve its goal for sustainable packaging, Taco Bell is altering many of its products. 

Moving forward, several things such as fountain drink cups to paper bags will no longer have PFAS, Phthalates, and BPA. Despite being found in many food packaging, there is an unsettling link between these chemicals and multiple negative health effects.

For example, research suggests that BPA, or bisphenol A, may cause cancer and affect brain development in the womb.

By doing so, the brand strives to increase its products’ ability to be recycled, compostable, or reusable. Taco Bell did not release any information on what materials they will be using in its future packaging.

In addition to this, Taco Bell will also be offering sustainable in-store options in the near future. As of right now, these changes include implementing recycling and/or composting bins into all restaurants (where infrastructure permits).

However, there is a possibility that the restaurant will soon be supplying reusable food baskets for dine-in meals.

Taco Bell’s Previous Actions On Sustainable Packaging

In 2019, Taco Bell banned plastic straws from all of its locations in Romania and Moldova. Unfortunately, the company does not have any official commitments on bans involving plastic bags or foam containers.

Reducing Its Carbon Footprint

There is no doubt that Taco Bell is ringing in the new year with ambitious goals. However, this is not the first time that it has tried to implement sustainable goals. 

In 2019, the fast-food giant publicized 7 of its prioritized goals. Surprisingly, almost half of them can be attributed to reducing its carbon footprint.

For example, Taco Bell vowed to work to ensure that all its beef is sustainable, as well as to improve recycling efforts and include menu diversity for those leaning towards a plant-based diet

Although already having successfully launched new favorites like the Black Bean Crunchwrap, it seems like Taco Bell hopes to continue this momentum.

As another one of its 2020 goals, the company is currently striving to be the number one QSR for vegetarians.

Needless to say, environmental activists, vegetarians, and flexitarians around the globe are all happy for these announcements.

It’s Time For All Fast-Food Brands To Use Sustainable Packaging

With its efforts, Taco Bell is one of many fast-food restaurants to begin adopting a greener mindset. Working with similar ideas, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway have already made sustainable commitments. However, there is still room for improvement in this industry.

Although there are many options for companies to reduce their environmental footprint, there are a few ideas that should be implemented as soon as possible:

  1. Reduce packaging or use of plastic wherever possible.
  2. Ditch hard to recycle materials such as polystyrene.
  3. Like Taco Bell, offer in-store recycling opportunities.

By doing so, monumental change can quickly occur.

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JetBlue Airways Will Become Carbon Neutral By July 2020, Making It The First In US History

Avery Maloto

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jetBlue promises to become carbon neutral in July 2020.

This year, JetBlue Airways Corporation may become the first large U.S. airline to go carbon neutral.

As the quickest way around the world, the airline industry engages with over 4 billion individuals each year. However, it is one of the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Shockingly, a singular commercial flight produces more carbon dioxide than the amount that some citizens produce in an entire year. Taking note of the situation, environmental activists are putting the travel industry under fire and calling out its contribution to climate change.

However, amidst all of the criticism, JetBlue is choosing to step up to the challenge.
In order to do so, the company is set to invest in eco-friendly projects across the globe.

JetBlue Goes Green With Fuel Choices

In a press release publicized on Monday, JetBlue vowed to mitigate emissions and go carbon neutral by July 2020. With expanding efforts, JetBlue can offset 15 to 17 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. This is equivalent to removing 1.5 million passenger vehicles off the road each year. 

As the leading project in its initiative, the company will be beginning to use sustainable fuel for all flights outbound of San Francisco. Fortunately, the fuel is already fully compatible with the existing jet engine technology.

JetBlue commits to using sustainable fuel for all flights outbound of San Francisco.
JetBlue commits to using sustainable fuel for all flights outbound of San Francisco.

Sustainable fuels, or biomass fuels, are any fuels derived from a once-living matter. For example, wood, corn, and other waste from agricultural crops are used in its production. This provides a sustainable solution to fossil fuels being popularly used today. 

As of 2018, airplanes produce 11% of all CO2 emissions in the world and significantly contribute to climate change. However, by utilizing this alternative, JetBlue says that they can reduce each flight’s fuel carbon footprint by 80%.

JetBlue Makes Becoming Carbon Neutral A Group Effort

On top of its sustainable fuel swap-out, JetBlue stated that they will continue to partner with Carbonfund.org. As a U.S. nonprofit organization, Carbonfund.org focuses on reducing carbon emissions and creating climate solutions.

The airline company and the nonprofit have been working together since 2008. In the last 10 years, the two have already mitigated more than 2.6 billion pounds of CO2 emissions.

On top of this, JetBlue now has new carbon offsetting partners. Adding to the list, EcoAct and South Pole are working with the company to promote carbon-neutral travels. 

Airline Goes Green On Land Too

As part of its carbon offsetting program, the airline company is engaging with projects around the world to mitigate the overall need for jet fuel. Focusing on areas that will opt for eco-friendly, renewable resources, JetBlue is striving to lower emissions in the atmosphere when possible. 

Currently, JetBlue announced support of carbon offset projects such as:

  • Forest conservation by declining plans that will convert forests for other purposes.
  • Promoting landfill gas capture (LFG) and converting it into renewable energy resources. 
  • Developing solar and wind farms to replace the need for fossil fuels like coal, diesel, and furnace oil.

JetBlue did not disclose the cost of any of its sustainable programs.

Collaboration Pivotal in Becoming Carbon Neutral Industry-Wide

According to JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes, the solution to this problem is a community effort. 

JetBlue CEO wants other airlines to join in the fight to become carbon neutral.
JetBlue CEO wants other airlines to join in the fight to become carbon neutral.
Credit: Lori Hoffman/Bloomberg

“The airline industry is one of the few industries that has collectively committed to an international emissions reduction goal,” said Hayes. “Air travel brings so much good to the world and JetBlue has always been about making our essential industry better. Carbon offsetting is a bridge to, not a silver bullet for, a lower carbon future. Reducing and mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions is a fundamental aspect of our business plan and our mission to inspire humanity.”

Hopefully, JetBlue achieves its mission and inspires others to do the same. If several other companies follow JetBlue’s environmental initiatives, the future of airline travels may be promising.

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Spanish Energy Company Invests $500 Million In South Australian Renewable Energy Park

Rich Bowden

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Recently, Spanish renewable energy company Iberdrola announced that it would invest $500 million in an Australian renewable energy park. Set to be located in Port Augusta, South Australia, the 320MW hybrid solar and wind farm will be operational as soon as 2021. 

Why Australia for a New Energy Park?

Currently, Iberdrola already has over 30GW of installed capacity, in Europe, the US and South America. But at the moment, the company has very little presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Consequently, looking to Australia as a high-potential renewables market, Iberdrola believes its investment in the new energy park can be a good first step into the region.

Recently, Iberdrola’s Head of Renewables Xavier Viteri told Australian media outlets that his company has major plans for Australia. Indeed, Port August presents a great opportunity for wind power, and solar power is a formidable supplement, Viteri mentioned.

Perfect Location for Renewable Energy Park

According to DP Energy’s Australia Manager Catherine Way, the energy park in Port Augusta is “shovel ready”.

Based on the DP Energy website, the chosen location allows the project to optimize for balancing wind and solar generation. Moreover, its placement will allow for an approach that is more tailored to the needs of the electric grid.

Is the Australian Renewable Energy Market Coming Back?

South Australia is not new to renewable energy innovation. For instance, in 2017, Tesla CEO Elon Musk won a $65.5 million bet with the South Australian government by installing a massive 100MW battery in the state’s north within 100 days.

Iberdrola announced it will invest more in renewables throughout Australia. The announcement has boosted the Australian renewable energy market, which has experienced a recent downturn.

The question is: will Iberdrola’s new $500 million investment be enough to encourage other companies to bring back the Australian renewable energy market?

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