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Partnership to reach a planet positive fashion industry

The Planet First programme aims to find planet positive technologies that will not only look at the circular economy and climate change, but also consider all aspects of earth’s natural support systems. The global commons are the resources we all need to survive, thrive and prosper. These resources, which include land, water, oceans, climate and biodiversity are deeply connected. They all need to be addressed as they impact each other. The programme is a visionary scale up of the H&M Foundation’s previous collaboration with HKRITA, named the Recycling Revolution (2016-2019).

Now, the H&M Foundation has donated 100 million SEK ($12 million), and the Hong Kong Government’s Innovation & Technology Fund gives additional funding based on the H&M Foundation’s donation under existing funding mechanism, which results in a total estimated budget of $100 million over five years.

‘Our partnership with the H&M Foundation is guided by speed, scale and impact. Our goal is to find technologies and solutions that we openly share with the industry to ensure rapid scaling and positive impact. To our knowledge, this is the most ambitious program in our industry to move the needle in this field, and we are very excited to start discovering the breakthroughs that can change the game,’ said Edwin Keh, CEO of HKRITA.

One of the projects within the new Planet First portfolio is a spinoff from the successful Green Machine developed in 2018, by HKRITA and H&M Foundation. The cellulose powder generated from the Green Machine is clean and toxic free. The research team together with Japanese fibre producer Daiwabo Rayon, are piloting to make new garments out of it. Moreover – as a lucky unintentional consequence – the powder with its superabsorbent characteristics could be interesting for farming purposes. Together with Shahi, one of India’s largest apparel manufacturer, a small pilot with cotton farmers was successfully implemented.

‘In a pilot study carried out by Shahi in India, we found that HKRITA’s superabsorbent powder increased cotton crop yield by 20%. We believe this is because the powder improves water retention of the crop, especially under extreme water stress conditions. The quality of cotton grown this way was better and the fibres were stronger and longer. These improvements can potentially enable farmers to receive a better market price. In spring 2021 we plan to run a larger pilot. We believe this research can help both cotton farmers and also benefit the environment by enabling the use of textile waste as an eco-friendly superabsorbent powder and by reducing water consumption in cotton production,’ said Anant Ahuja, head, organisational development, Shahi Exports.

What if textiles could sequester CO2? This is another topic for research which has already resulted in a prototype. As a consumer, you could potentially help decrease carbon dioxide in the air by simply wearing these clothes.

A third example of the Planet First programme is a first of its kind open factory where innovators, researchers, suppliers and brands can meet, test new ideas and scale faster. By doing this, the programme partners are offering a solution to one of the pain points for innovators today – access to equipment and the industry. The lab will be opened in Hong Kong. More information will follow in 2021.

‘We don’t know what a planet positive fashion industry will look like, no one does. This goal is directional and requires innovation and thinking outside the box in every step of the fashion value chain. By signing up for five more years with HKRITA, we not only dip our toes but take the plunge with this partnership to figure this out, and we look forward to making the Planet First program a revolutionary one,’ says Erik Bang, innovation lead at the H&M Foundation.


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