More and more of today’s top businesses are replacing the typical linear economy with the circular economy to unlink economic growth from resource constraints, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which is focused on sustainability and reuse of scarce resources.
Case in point: H&M just joined the circular economy with its new “Close the Loop” line—16 denim styles made from recycled cotton from textiles collected in the Garment Collecting initiative in H&M stores.
Since 2013, 18,000 tons of unwanted clothing have been collected from H&M customer donations worldwide and the goal is to create a closed-loop system for textiles through recycled denim, using the old garments to create the new apparel.
“Creating a closed loop for textiles, in which unwanted clothes can be recycled into new ones, will not only minimize textile waste, but also significantly reduce the need for virgin resources as well as other impacts fashion has on our planet,“ said Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of H&M, in Sustainable Brands.
Available next month in-store and online, the new collection is for women, children and men, with styles ranging from distressed jeans to hooded shirts and zip-up jackets. H&M is in a leadership position with a commitment to use only sustainable cotton in its products by 2020.
Last year, Helena Helmersson, H&M’s head of sustainability, told edie that support for a circular economy is “embedded” in H&M’s long-term profitability. “It’s really close to the business and to use natural resources in this way is actually cost-efficient. For us, this is a clear business case to keep on being profitable in the long-term. We will have to find ways on being less dependent on natural resources.”
Other notable brands embracing the circular economy include:
- Speedo makes swimwear out of factory textile scraps.
- Ford converts used floor mats into engine parts.
- Walt Disney World Resort sends food waste from select restaurants to a Harvest Power facility to generate electricity and fertilizer.
- Caterpillar’s Reman Program focuses on returning components at end of life to same-as-new condition.
- Philips sells lighting as a service, retaining ownership of the lights and equipment to eliminate upfront installation costs and regular management of its products by taking them back for recycling or upgrading.
- The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 membership group includes Apple, Cisco, Unilever, Renault and IKEA.
“I view closed-loop and circular economy as synonymous,” said Ron Gonen, director of the Closed Loop Fund, a $100 million effort financed by companies including Walmart, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs and Unilever, according to Greenbiz. “We want to make sure any consumer good can be recycled back into another product continually.”
The philosophical divide remains between slow-to-adopt corporations and those already striving to leverage the environmental and business benefits of the circular economy.
“We are split between a race to the bottom and a race to the top,” said Martin Stuchtey, director of McKinsey’s sustainability and resource productivity division, in Greenbiz. “There is a huge temptation to go cheaper and cheaper and more toxic and more toxic.”