H&M Partners with Sustainable Building Materials Company

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  • The H&M Group aims to use 100% sustainable materials by 2030 and to be climate positive by 2040.
  • To get there, he teamed up with Biomason, a company that uses biology to produce cement.
  • The tiles are tested in offices and are expected to be installed in public places by 2022.
  • This article is part of a series called “Partners for a Sustainable Future”, describing innovative alliances that are driving real progress in sustainability.

For everyone the environmental flack that fast fashion gets, H&M Group has defined ambitious sustainability goals for its family of brands. These include using 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 and having a climate-positive supply chain – a chain that creates a positive overall impact on the economy. climate – by 2040.

photo by Mattias Bodin

Mattias Bodin, head of the Circular Innovation Lab of the H&M group.

Courtesy of H&M Group


“This includes not only the materials and products that we sell to customers, but also all of the materials that we use to facilitate our business, such as store interiors, packaging, etc. ”, Mattias Bodin, head of the circular innovation laboratory of the H&M group, told Insider.

The challenge? Most of the solutions they will need do not yet exist or have not reached the commercial level that a large retailer would need. This is why, among other strategies, the H&M group is increasing its partnerships with innovative companies around the world to develop a portfolio of more sustainable materials.

The sustainable development strategy of the H&M group on an orange circle

An overview of the sustainable development strategy of the H&M group.


Courtesy of H&M Group



“We want to drive the industry towards systemic change – a new way of producing and enjoying fashion – and it’s not really something that a company can achieve on its own, so we have to work in partnership,” said said Bodin.

One of those deals is with a company based in North Carolina Biomeçon, the only company in the world using biology to commercially produce cement. Traditional cement production releases carbon as a by-product and represents 8% of global CO2 emissions. Meanwhile, Biomason’s first commercially available product, bioLITH tiles, has the lowest carbon footprint on the market while exceeding the performance of traditional materials. Their work could have a huge impact on the construction of buildings in a more sustainable way.

Stakeholders from both companies explained how other companies can negotiate partnerships that benefit each other – and the world at large.

Align yourself with where you are and where you want to be

close up of durable tiles

The bioLITH tiles from Biomason.

Biomeçon


The H&M Group first learned about Biomason at a sustainable materials conference in 2019. They were immediately impressed with the look of bioLITH tiles resembling existing materials used in H&M Group stores.

black and white photo of Ginger Dosier

Ginger Dosier, CEO and President of Biomason.

Courtesy of Biomason


It was clear that they were aesthetically aligned, but Biomason CEO and Chairman Ginger Krieg Dosier said that in order to determine if they would be good partners, it was essential to ensure that they were also aligned. on their view of technology.

For example, H&M Group wanted to create larger and thinner tiles than the original Biomason prototype. “It’s important to be really straightforward about what they’re asking for and to be able to quickly determine if that’s possible. And then the next few meetings will really be about how you can come together to develop this in tandem,” Dosier said. .

She also suggested not over-promising what you will be able to accomplish. “It’s critical to be transparent about where you are in technology development based on what they’re asking so that you allow them to join you on this journey to figure that out,” Dosier said. “To me that’s what a real partner is. It’s different from a customer relationship.”

Test and develop together

sustainable tiles installed at H&M headquarters

Biomason’s bioLITH panel installed at H&M group headquarters for testing.

Biomeçon


Even though both sides were excited about the potential partnership, the larger deal was not signed immediately. Instead, H&M Group chose to perform several tests of the product, first in the workshop of their circular innovation lab, and then on the floors of their corporate headquarters. “This step-by-step approach helps us gain momentum and gain knowledge,” Bodin said, allowing them to see how the material performed against needs such as durability and stain resistance.

This process has also helped Biomason better understand what their products should deliver in practice, rather than doing R&D in a vacuum. “These products need to work beyond durability and aesthetics: they need to work in an environment where they’re used a lot. Working with H&M in this way – sending them prototypes and getting iterative feedback – speeds up our ability to achieve it, “he added. noted. Even now that the Joint Development Partnership is official, the teams continue to refine and iterate together before hopefully starting to test the tiles in public places in 2022.

Overall, these types of partnerships are an exciting way for innovative companies to see other potential applications for their technology and find opportunities to push the boundaries of what they can do. “We’re always looking for partners who look beyond who we are today to join us in developing the next use case,” Dosier said.

Make the relationship bilateral

“One of the missions of our Circular Innovation Lab is to find new materials and startups, but also to support these startups and entrepreneurs in their evolution towards commercialization. It’s a two-way street: we need them, they need us, ”Bodin said.

Part of this means providing benefits outside of money alone. “It’s really important to look at what you can really offer yourself. There is certainly co-funding, but there could be a lot of other things we can offer that we maybe take for granted but could really add. of value to the partner, ”says Bodin. Bodin highlighted how the supply chain connections, advertising and marketing power of the H&M Group can really benefit the small businesses they partner with.

Another major – and perhaps surprising – term that the H&M Group believes in is not to ask for any exclusivity in their partnership agreements. Even though these partners were working with H & M’s competitors, Bodin is not worried: “We may be competing on one level, but when it comes to creating a sustainable future, it’s not really. where we compete.


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