Trend analysis, forecasting and developing sustainable business models are key services of Green Strategy. Thus, it is with particular interest that we are following progress in the field. In the last year, the fashion industry has taken radical leaps in this area. A few days ago, the Swedish fashion company KappAhl AB launched their new store concept in their flagship store in Oslo, Norway. Of course, H&M also has an interesting take underway!
In September 2013, H&M launched the “Green Store Challenge” (GSC) in collaboration with the DO School in Hamburg, Germany. The GSC is a program that invites young people (aged 18 to 28), with social entrepreneurial ambitions, from around the world to contribute with a proposal for developing a sustainable retail store concept for H&M. With a window for applications between September 2013 and January 2014, the prototypes are to be collaboratively developed by the selected participants (max 20) at the DO School in Hamburg between April to June 2014 (“Incubation phase”). At the end of the ten weeks, on June 25th, the participants will have created a prototype of a Green Store that will be tested for one week with real customers and staff in an H&M store in Germany (according to the GSC description and a recent DO School blog article). The final Green Store prototype is planned to be implemented by H&M on a world-wide scale. According to the GSC description:
“H&M challenges the DO School Fellows to create a Green Store prototype. This Green Store prototype must be sustainable in terms of materials, construction, energy, operation and other aspects and will be realized in Germany. The prototype should be scalable to H&M stores worldwide, be economically beneficial and make the idea of sustainability tangible for customers and employees.”—“ The Green Store prototype will set an example of sustainability in-store and help to communicate the issue to customers and employees in stores. This will also help to create more conscious consumers worldwide and boost the innovation of a multi-national company.” (The DO School Green Store Challenge Description, 2013)
In the GSC description, H&M describes their official motive in being the “challenger” of this program:
“As a responsible company we want to make people in H&M stores more aware of sustainability aspects, helping to create a more conscious group of consumers worldwide and boost the innovation of a multi-national company. We are excited to work with the 20 Fellows to contribute to a more sustainable world”. (Angela Gallenz, HR Manager of H&M Germany)
The development of the Green Store concept by the program participants will also involve external expertise:
“To help solve the Green Store Challenge, Fellows will connect with leading experts on a variety of topics including the environmental impact of construction materials and recycling systems, as well as sustainable interior design and retail operation. Fellows will conduct research to identify and understand the status quo of H&M, and its vision of sustainability, in the context of available best-practices regarding sustainable design and operation. Based on these learning experiences, the Fellows will brainstorm, identify, and test ideas for a Green Store prototype and put them to a real life test.” (The DO School Green Store Challenge Description, 2013)
During the Incubation phase (from April to June 2014), the participants have also refined their own individual social venture projects. After this ten weeks’ period, the participants will return to their respective home countries to implement their own projects over the following ten months (from June 2014 to April 2015). It will be exciting to see the outcome of the program, i.e. both how H&M will embrace the final store prototype, and also how the participants will realize their own social ventures.
The eighteen participants (“fellows”) who were selected for the GSC program are presented, with images and descriptions, on the Green Store Challenge homepage. They come from an impressive set of countries, i.e. Mexico, India, Ecuador, Colombia, British Virgin Islands, Cambodia, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Poland, Panama, Croatia, Italy, India, Egypt and Great Britain. Based on their individual descriptions, they seem to be an amazing group of young social entrepreneurs. And they should be a gold mine for any company seeking to collaborate with young entrepreneurs with a quest to finding innovative solutions to social, environmental and/or societal challenges.