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Olivia Wilde Partners with H&M to Promote Conscious Consumerism

Joi Sears headshotWords by Joi Sears
Leadership & Transparency
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Americans spend over half a billion dollars a day on clothing. Imagine what the world would be like if just half of that amount was spent on only sustainable, ethical and eco-conscious brands. Conscious consumerism is based on the idea that every dollar is a vote. By leveraging our collective purchasing power, we can economically influence global companies to become more socially responsible. We can drastically change our planet simply by being more conscious of what we wear, how it is produced and what we do when we are done with it.

Conscious Commerce

Conscious Commerce is an experiment in living (and shopping) with a conscience. It is the brainchild of American actress Olivia Wilde and partner Barbara “Babs” Burchfield. “This is our attempt to be useful humans,” they explain in a welcome letter written on their website. “Maybe if we all take small steps in the right direction, we can at least avoid being the assholes ensuring total world annihilation.”

The duo recently partnered with H&M to launch a Conscious Exclusive pop-up shop in Times Square. The actress-turned-humanitarian is also the face of the S/S Conscious Exclusive campaign, which celebrates the work of artisans all over the world. "The H&M Conscious Exclusive Collection doesn't compromise on style. It's a collection of pieces that I want to wear, and that are all made from sustainable materials. It's how fashion should always be," Wilde said.

In addition to the H&M Conscious Exclusive collection, the event featured sustainable and ethical fashion brands like, Amour Vert, Apolis, ClimateStore, Feed, Freedom of Animals, the Giving Keys, K/iller Collection, LSTN, Preserve, S'well, SHFT, Studio 189 and ZADY.

"Being in the H&M Conscious Exclusive Pop-Up, curated by Conscious Commerce, is an extremely exciting moment because we are launching the H&M Conscious Exclusive collection which is at the forefront of the sustainable movement in fashion," Wilde said. "... We thought why not pair the Conscious Exclusive Collection with brands that we at Conscious Commerce really love!”

“The partnership with H&M Conscious grew organically,” Wilde explained. “Ethical business has always been a passion of mine, and I love the idea of using retail to raise money and change the lives of people around the world.” Actress Rosario Dawson also presented her ethical jewelry line, Studio 189, at the pop-up event. “People will always want to buy beautiful things, but if you buy them with a conscience behind it, you can really make an impact.”

H&M Conscious


H&M is at the forefront of the sustainable fast-fashion movement. The company is on a mission to make sustainable fashion attractive, accessible and affordable to people all over the world. H&M Conscious is the platform which unites all of the company's efforts to promote a sustainable fashion future. It consists of seven conscious commitments and hundreds of actions in different areas of the supply chain.

H&M is the No. 1 user of certified organic cotton in the world. In 2014, nearly 22 percent of the cotton it used was either certified organic, recycled or grown under the Better Cotton Initiative. Its goal is to reach 100 percent by the year 2020. In addition to cotton, H&M is committed to using other sustainable materials such as organic linen, hemp and recycled wool, all grown with fewer chemicals and pesticides.

In 2014, nearly 90 percent of H&M products were transported by either ships or trains, and 27 percent of the energy used was renewable. This year, its goal is to use 100 percent renewable energy in all of its stores, offices and warehouses.

H&M’s ultimate sustainability goal is to close the fashion loop so that all old clothes can be turned into new clothes, instead of going to waste. Now, customers can drop off used clothing at any H&M store and they will be given a new life. In 2014, the company collected more than 7,600 tons of clothing, enough fabric to produce 38 million T-shirts. H&M also introduced the first pieces made of recycled cotton from clothes collected in its stores. Making recycled cotton requires zero water, fertilizers or chemicals and fewer carbon emissions than growing new cotton.

H&M Conscious is not just about the planet; it’s also about people. The company doesn’t own factories; instead it works with independent suppliers and sets the bar high as far as ethical standards go. It rewards companies that perform well with more business. It's transparent. Its suppliers list is public, and it also includes suppliers of its suppliers on this list. H&M also works for fair living wages across the entire textile industry. As a part of this action, its CEO personally met with the prime ministers of Bangladesh and Cambodia to promote higher minimum wages.

Fashion forward


“There is an undeniable movement toward mindful manufacturing, sourcing and spending in almost all areas of business, fashion being perhaps the most revolutionary," Wilde said in an article published in Vogue. Today’s consumers are demanding more transparency from the brands they love. The international Fashion Revolution movement, is a great example of this by urging customers to ask: “Who made my clothes?”

Conscious commerce is on a mission to make every retail purchase one that gives back. They want to put the “fun” back in fundraising. “Philanthropy is no longer about $10,000 a plate dinners, it is something that should be incorporated into every day life," Wilde said. "The young generation of today wants to participate, they want to live every day participating in the movement to make the world a better place. They want their clothes to have a story. It’s no longer cool to have a bag with a logo, they want a bag with a story. They want to know who made it and who it is benefitting.”

Fashion is our way of defining our individuality. Consumers want to shop consciously without sacrificing style or quality. There is a growing trend toward socially responsible brands producing quality, stylish and affordable sustainable fashion. “You shouldn’t have to compromise style in order to be sustainable,” Wilde said. Sustainable fashion can be fashionable.

Image credits: Getty Images

Joi Sears headshotJoi Sears

Joi M. Sears is the Founder and Creative Director of Free People International, a social enterprise which specializes in offering creative solutions to the world's biggest social, environmental and economic challenges through the arts, design thinking and social innovation.

Read more stories by Joi Sears