Challenge

Making the fashion industry more sustainable is a massive paradigm change, and one best made via an ecosystem of partners and open innovation.

The non-profit H&M Foundation teamed up with KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Accenture to create the Global Change Award (GCA) to help accelerate the fashion industry on this journey.

Global Change Award. An innovation challenge by H&M Foundation

Strategy and Solution

Every year, the world uses more resources than our planet can sustain. With fashion as one of the most planet-intensive industries, the non-profit H&M Foundation, wanted to shift from “take-make-waste” production and consumption models to a “take-make-take-make-take-make” economy that eliminates waste.

How could the global foundation help the industry create fashion for a growing population while protecting the planet? It knew it needed strong partners to help reinvent the fashion industry. As a result, H&M Foundation collaborated with Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm to apply and accelerate innovation at scale through the Global Change Award.

The Global Change Award is one of the world’s biggest challenges for early stage innovation and the first initiative of its kind in the fashion industry. It identifies ideas that apply disruptive technology and new business models to change the way garments are designed, produced, shipped, bought, used and recycled.

Accelerating innovation

The H&M Foundation, KTH and Accenture co-developed the GCA accelerator concept and overall program structure using an open innovation approach. Since 2015, all three organizations continue to develop the program together, for example, contributing:

Innovation

An innovation accelerator and coaching to help the winners turn their ideas into reality. Accenture offers knowledge and insights into the future of fashion and retail.

Analytics

Analytics and thought leadership to identify the trends shaping sustainable fashion. Accenture creates a report on the trends in circular fashion and open innovation to share with the broad industry.

Ecosystems

Accenture also helps the five winners each year to build bridges in the broader ecosystem, bringing in other start-ups and more established businesses to help create partnerships for innovation.

Transformation

H&M Foundation and its partners, KTH and Accenture, are helping to make the fashion industry more sustainable. Shifting to a circular economy presents a paradigm change for the industry—modernizing fashion’s global production and consumption in a way unseen since the Industrial Revolution. With H&M Foundation’s help and direction, fashion start-ups in the circular economy are acquiring the knowledge and skills to develop and scale their ideas into fully fledged businesses. The award program helps the winners to accelerate results and make a lasting change on the industry—and the world.

Creating more sustainable fashion is helping to attract future customers and employees who increasingly demand greater transparency and clothes with a conscience. The shift toward circular fashion is bringing new benefits for the industry, such as reduced material costs, improved customer relationships and reduced risk of resource exhaustion. Together, the H&M Foundation, KTH and Accenture are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible by nurturing green, disruptive ideas and technology that will shape the future of fashion.

Selected success stories
The 2016 winner, Orange Fiber, worked with Accenture and other partners in the accelerator to learn how to move from a small start-up with lab production to scale its business model and marketing to meet demand. Orange Fiber repurposes leftovers from citrus fruit production to create a silk-like, biodegradable fiber with fantastic sturdiness, shine and drape. Since working with H&M Foundation, KTH and Accenture, the Salvatore Ferragamo group launched a capsule collection using Orange Fiber fabric.

One of the 2017 winners, EON-ID, creates tiny RFID threads with a digitalized “ingredients list.” The threads, which can be sewn into garments, aim to make the recycling process more efficient and less wasteful by proactively identifying the garment’s materials. The Global Change Award helped the team move beyond proof of concept to commercialized technology, as well as build partnerships with large global brands that are purchasing and introducing EON-ID RFID Thread technology into their value chains. Just one year later, the company has moved from having five sample threads to producing significant amounts.

Shifting to a circular economy presents a paradigm change for the industry— modernizing fashion’s global production and consumption in a way unseen since the Industrial Revolution. Fashion start-ups are acquiring the knowledge and skills to develop and scale their ideas into fully fledged businesses.
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