H&M use AI to create a more sustainable supply chain

Fast fashion – defined as ‘inexpensive clothing produced at a rapid rate, in huge quantities, for mass-market retailers’ – is a major issue for sustainability, and one that Swedish clothing retailer H&M is seeking to address with AI technology.

The cost and quality of these clothes mean they are quickly disposed of and also create by-products in the production and distribution stages that negatively impact the environment. To mitigate this, H&M has announced many sustainability policies in the last year – which includes the pledge to only use recycled or sustainable materials by 2030, or sourcing 100% sustainable cotton by this year.

One significant initiative the company made is the creation of its AI department in 2018. Arti Zeighami, H&M’s head of advanced analytics and AI explained that the technology plays a big role in making supply chains more sustainable. A huge issue for retailers wanting to improve their carbon footprint is aligning supply and demand, which can be helped significantly by AI.

Zeighami explained that it’s “…how you make sure the right product is in the right place at the right time and is transported into the warehouse.”
He continued, “Utilizing data analytics allows us to do that. You see a significant impact. And we’re thinking of how can we do this for our entire production?”

The AI systems can help to create more precise forecasting, which is the key to getting the supply as closely matched to customer demand as possible. “We’re actually working very specifically on being able to, for instance, calculate and quantify how many cases you’re going to buy [of any item],” Zeighami said. Once the company is only making the number of products they know will be sold, this will greatly reduce waste, which would lead to large environmental impacts.

Major Investment Changes Strategy in Reaction to the Climate Crisis

BlackRock

The Chief Executive of BlackRock, Larry Fink, has announced that the investment firm will exit deals that have sustainability-related risks.

The news came in an annual letter from Fink to Chief Executives, wherein he said they must look at investments from a sustainability point of view or risk ‘the wrath of their investors’.

He noted that BlackRock would begin what he called, ‘a fundamental re-shaping of finance’, which would involve leaving investments that are highly unsustainable, such as thermal coal producers.

This was a welcome announcement for environmental activists, especially considering BlackRock’s lack of sustainable efforts prior to this. “As the biggest financial institution in the world, BlackRock’s announcement today is a major step in the right direction and a testament to the power of public pressure calling for climate action,” said Ben Cushing of the US-based environmental group Sierra Club.

Investing trends have meant that large investment firms like BlackRock or competitors like Vanguard and State Street Corp have a huge impact on largescale corporate action. However, activists will monitor BlackRock moving forward, to hold them to their word and make sure their future investments stay true to Fink’s statement.

Diana Best, senior strategist for the activist group Sunrise Project,  said its move “instantly raises the bar for competitors such as Vanguard and State Street Global Advisors.” Neither Vanguard nor State Street Corp have made announcements in relation to Mr. Fink’s letter.

Footfall in UK 2.5% lower than last year during holiday period

UK Highstreet

A report by Springboard, a retail intelligence provider, claims overall brick and mortar footfall in the UK fell 2.5% on last year which, although footfall has been declining since 2010, is significantly greater than other years.

The high street was the biggest loser this year in terms of footfall, with a 3.5% decline. As reported last week, eCommerce sales grew 18% on last year, which could explain the decrease in people on the high streets of cities like London and Manchester this Christmas.

The data also specified that the third and fourth weeks of December showed particularly low numbers of consumers on the high streets, with figures declining 6.1%, more than double the decline of the overall Christmas period.

Diane Wherle, insight director for Springboard, commented on the data, saying it “…reflect(s) the caution and spending restraint of consumers which typifies low consumer confidence that has been ongoing for the last three years”.

She noted, “Today’s rather circumspect consumer was clearly demonstrating considered restraint towards their lifestyle and spend decisions over the Christmas period.”

Christmas Eve was particularly difficult for high street retailers this year, with an almost 10% decline in the amount of shoppers.

“Christmas Eve, traditionally the day that men take to the streets to do their Christmas shopping, was a bit of a damp squib this year,” said Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance. The eleventh hour came and went without the usual dart to the shops…”