Stockholm - "Innovation is the key to complete circularity", said the H&M Group in a recent sustainability report. Looking to find this key, the Swedish fast fashion giant created the Global Change Award five years ago. The yearly competition culminates with a prize of 1 million euro (approximately 1.1 million US dollars or 850,000 pounds), distributed among five startups with promising ideas to make fashion more sustainable. All winners also participate in a one-year accelerator program in Stockholm, New York and Hong Kong, provided by H&M in partnership with Accenture and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. FashionUnited attended the fourth edition of the Global Change Award ceremony, which took place earlier this week in Stockholm.
Industry leaders, journalists and fashionistas from around the world were present at the Stockholm Town Hall, best known for hosting the Nobel Prize. The lucky winners, selected out of 6,640 entries from 182 countries, come from Germany, Switzerland, Kenia, Peru and the UK. This year’s Global Change Award received twice as many applications than the 2018 edition, an unquestionable proof of success for the event which hoped to receive 100 applicants in its first edition in 2016.
The Perssons, the family behind H&M and the H&M Foundation, were there, of course. Billionaire Karl-Johan Persson, grandson of the company’s founder and current CEO, opened the event by saying: “We brought this event to life not only because we believe in sustainability and find it important, but also because consumers are demanding sustainable solutions”.
German startup The Loop Scoop wins first prize at Global Change Award
The Loop Scoop, a company from Germany, won the first prize (300,000 euro and one-year mentorship) for designing an online platform that gives designers the knowledge, tools and resources they need to design recyclable items. The system aims to close the loop on every garment, from designer to wear to recycling. In addition, the technology also offers a circularity.id which can be attached to the garments so that consumers know what they are buying and how they can best recycle the item once they no longer want to wear it.
The second prize (250,000 euro) went to Sane Membrane, a biodegradable and mineral-based membrane for outdoor wear developed by Dimpora, a Swiss company. "How illogical is it that the clothing people wear to enjoy nature is harmful to it", said the event’s presenters when introducing the innovation.
Three more projects received a prize of 150,000 euro each: Sustainable Sting, made by Kenyan startup Green Nettle Textile; Clothes that Grow, developed by UK-based Petit Pli; and Lab Leather, author by Peruvian company Le Qara. Sustainable Sting grows nettles to create sustainable fashion fibers and opportunities for farmers in Kenya to boost their livelihoods, while Clothes that Grow offers exactly what its name says: kidswear that expand with the child, therefore expanding their lifecycle. As for Le Qara, it uses microorganisms to create vegan biodegradable leather for the fashion industry.
Changes in the Global Change Award
This year’s Global Change Award was slightly different than the previous editions, in which the finalists were selected by a panel of specialists and the 1 million-euro prize was distributed among them according to popular vote. This time the public could not decide how much money would be awarded to which company, but they could still support the finalists through a new crowdfunding platform developed in partnership with Indiegogo.
“This platform is something completely new to us, we had never done anything like this” said Erik Bang, Innovation Lead at H&M Foundation, to FashionUnited ahead of the event. “We want to make sure that winners can enjoy and benefit from their momentum”, he explains, noting that the first few months after the win can be overwhelming for the startups due to a cluttered inbox, for instance. When they are finally done working through their emails, they realize they missed great opportunities by taking too long to reply to potential investors. A study by Accenture, one of the partners of the Global Change Award, shows that financing is one of the biggest challenges faced by the applicants. H&M Foundation and Indiegogo aim, therefore, to make this obstacle smaller.
“We also noticed that consumers often feel helpless. They want to contribute to positive change, but feel they can only do it by purchasing items from a sustainable or circular brand. Through crowdfunding they can now actively contribute to the beginning of the process”, explains Bang.
Want to donate to the aforementioned startups? The crowdfunding platform is already live on Indiegogo’s website. Each company has their own crowdfunding page.
FashionUnited was invited to Stockholm by H&M. This article was originally published in Dutch at FashionUnited.nl. Translated and edited by Marjorie van Elven.
Photos: FashionUnited/Caitlyn Terra