H&M’s SS23 collection is a lesson is social sustainability. The brand’s latest initiative is striving to support communities in India by buying the product, buttons in this case, on a commercial market. Even the little things can make a difference. SS23 Studio Collection by H&M features buttons made with waste collected by waste pickers in India, an initiative that’s improving the lives of society’s most vulnerable and contributing to building a circular economy. 

Can a button create change? H&M thinks so. 

India has over 1.5-4 million waste pickers, collecting materials that have the potential to be sold and recycled. While they play a critical role in the waste management system, they rank lowest in the hierarchy of urban informal jobs in the country, and they often struggle to lead healthy, productive lives. The plastic the waste pickers collect is becoming a valuable resource to the fashion industry, providing economic benefits to Bengaluru’s waste pickers, bringing them closer to the formal sector. 

How does it work? Waste pickers sell the plastic they collect to Hasiru Dala Innovations, a social enterprise that has received “Guaranteed Member Status” from World Fair Trade Organisation, that then supplies manufacturers with the regenerated plastic, turning it into buttons. The H&M Group buys these buttons and features them on garments sold worldwide. The buttons are traceable down to the source of the rPET and the names of the workers at the collection centre, as well as information about social security, salary, and working conditions. 

During 2023, all H&M Group garments with poly buttons produced in India will have these buttons. Furthermore, H&M is inviting other brands to tap into this resource too. Imagine the impact the fashion industry could have together if everyone would invest in inclusive circularity. 

The initiative further strengthens an existing ecosystem around the waste picker community in Bengaluru, where the philanthropic H&M Foundation initiated Saamuhika Shakti (“Collective strength”) in 2020.