Wednesday 20 April 2016

H&M: A Transparent Need For Change

In a week when H&M have tried to muscle into the events leading up to the anniversary of Rana Plaza, some news has emerged that the high street giant might not want us to know about.

It's emerging that the company has faced criticism and demands for urgent remedial action after many of their supplier factories were found to have inadequate or fire exits. This was, of course, one of the main reasons that so many people lost their lives in the Rana Plaza disaster–workers simply couldn't get out of the building in time.

An inspection for the Bangladesh Accord, undertaken after a fire at one of H&M's suppliers in February, found that dozens of deadlines had been missed to bring safety standards up to code. Exits were blocked or locked, and the only reason that more workers were not injured or killed was that the fire broke out early in the morning, before most people had arrived for their shifts.

In response to H&M's foot-dragging over work that they explicitly agreed to carry out as signatories to the Bangladesh Accord, a coalition of protest groups including Clean Clothes Campaign and the International LAbour Rights Forum have called for a week of protests. These will culminate in demos in Sweden to coincide with H&M's AGM on May 3rd. Find out more about the protests at

This is not the story that H&M wanted us to be talking about, as they go full-tilt into World Recycle Week, a stunt that aims to give the brand some serious ethical kudos. Unfortunately for them, protests have already taken place outside stores in London's West End, and the noise is only likely to grow as campaigners demand real change.

It's not all bad news for H&M, though. They've featured very highly in Fashion Revolution's new Transparency Index, which aims to show how open the big brands are being about their supply chain. In fact, they're one of only three companies to make it into the top rank, alongside Inditex and Levi Strauss. Ordinarily, that would be something to shout about. Sadly, it looks like that good news may be drowned out in the face of cries for H&M to start delivering on their promises.

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