H&M's annual shareholder meeting took place yesterday in Sweden. As expected, activists hit the streets to give their opinion on the high street giant. Worldwide demonstrations took place outside H&M stores, and protester's anger was fuelled by new reports that paint an even bleaker picture of the brand's ignored responsibilities to their workforce.
Figures from a further 22 factories have been released which, alongside the numbers from the 32 H&M suppliers already questioned, show that over 60% of the Swedish giant's Bangladeshi suppliers are yet to come up to code with fire-rated exits–the lack of which have caused hundreds of deaths and injuries since Rana Plaza, over three years ago.
These dreadful numbers have largely come to light through H&M's own commitment to transparency. In fact, the International Labour Rights Forum has commended H&M for its open policy in releasing their progress on fire safety in their factories. But this painfully slow pace of essential renovation, over three years since one of fast fashion's darkest hours, is nothing to brag about.
Organiser of the protest outside H&M's Times Square flagship store, Amy DuFault, is quoted in Ecouterre giving a damning indictment of the brand's ethical standards. She says:
The anger and frustration is clear and palpable. It's increasingly obvious that, while on the one hand H&M are becoming more transparent and open, that very transparency is revealing a company that says one thing and does another. Or, when it comes to making their factories safe places to work, does very little.
"H&M is about to open its 4,000th store in New Delhi later this month. Obviously their sights are set on growth rather than the safety of their workers. Yet when it comes to their responsibilities under the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, movement is seemingly at a snail’s pace. So I have a hard time with H&M ever calling themselves sustainable or conscious in any way when they can’t protect the very people making their clothing. Doesn’t that seem like the most basic part of sustainability? Provide a safe workplace where people don’t get killed or maimed?”