Close this search box.

EDITORIAL How can retailers sell more while cutting their carbon footprint?

Image: Adobe Stock

Today fast fashion retailer H&M says it’s set to double its sales by 2030 while halving its carbon footprint. The question we ask in this InternetRetailing newsletter editorial is how that’s possible. The key question for H&M now is whether it intends to double its revenue by charging more or selling more items – or a mixture of the two. It’s hard to see how the group can increase sustainability by doubling the amount of goods it puts into the world. However sustainable the goods may be, each still consumes more resources.

The update comes in H&M’s full-year figures today, and coincides with outrage at reports that fast fashion clothing from the west is found to have been dumped in Chile’s Atacama Desert. It’s a reminder of the 2018 reaction to the discovery of brands burning excess stock in order to maintain brand value – one which swiftly led to a rethink.

The better way forward for H&M as it looks to increase its revenues while improving its carbon footprint and others aiming to take similar approaches has to be to sell fewer goods of better quality that are then able to be sold on or otherwise used secondhand – and ultimately recycled – while charging more for them. Better made goods last longer and should ultimately cost less per wear than disposable alternatives.

And the good news there are encouraging signs in these figures about H&M’s intentions. It says making more full-price sales and moving away from discounting helped it grow sales in the final quarter of its financial year. And is also sets out details of how it plans to reduce its emissions, with insights into circular transport, low-carbon delivery and more. But the retailer, which signed up to high environmental standards at Cop26, will know that interest will persist in just how it achieves the sales growth it wants to see while reducing its carbon footprint.

There’s a more obvious potential path to sustainability for LVMH. It’s interesting to see in our story the luxury brand group’s 2021 figures one commentator considering the value of scarcity for brands. That’s something LMVH will no doubt be considering, as appetites for the goods it sells have risen over the last year and are set to rise in parts of the world including China. Maintaining a perception of brand quality will mean not producing much more than people want to buy – and then not making more until stock has sold. Given the added brand value that the perception of high quality goods and workmanship adds, we hope that will be something it is keen to maintain.

Today we also report today as AO reviews its German business at a time when shopper habits seem to be reverting to how they were before the pandemic. The retailer, which is making headway with sustainability as its recycling operations expand, says the German market is now more competitive and expensive to trade in, even though it seems fewer customers will now be buying online. And there’s also news that UK store vacancies may – just may – have peaked, in research from the BRC and Local Data Company. Dr Martens sees more shoppers buy direct from it than from its wholesale partners, and one piece of research from ParcelHero compares the cost of Brexit and Covid-19, and finds Brexit is likely to have cost the economy more.

Read More

Register for Newsletter

Group 4 Copy 3Created with Sketch.

Receive 3 newsletters per week

Group 3Created with Sketch.

Gain access to all Top500 research

Group 4Created with Sketch.

Personalise your experience on