Clean Clothes Campaign is dedicating this year’s International Labour Day to the hundreds of thousands of workers who produce garments for H&M and are waiting for the brand to stop turning its back on the commitment that living wages would become a reality by 2018. Our “Turn Around, H&M!” campaign will continue throughout the year, aiming to stop the brand from heading in the direction of letting down 850,000 workers who are waiting to start receiving living wages – as H&M vowed they would by this year.
In its 2013 “Roadmap towards a fair living wage” H&M announced: “H&M's strategic suppliers should have pay structures in place to pay a fair living wage by 2018. By then, this will reach around 850,000 textile workers.” (emphasis added) At the time, those workers were toiling away in 750 factories that produced 60% of what stacked H&M’s shelves around the globe.
The brand’s public commitment to ensure workers receive living wages, and the associated roadmap, received a lot of positive media coverage in 2013, along with cheers from countless consumers who care about sustainable fashion.
Clean Clothes Campaign, however, was only cautiously optimistic. We pointed out that strategic suppliers are just one part of the supply chain, and that H&M must consider how they will implement changes through the rest of the supply chain, including subcontractors. Another criticism, among others, was that H&M failed to clearly state a living wage benchmark. Without one, it did not seem possible to create a roadmap to a living wage actually being paid, just as it was impossible to monitor progress and measure success.
“By now it is clear that our skepticism was well justified. More than four years after H&M published the roadmap, hundreds of thousands or workers producing H&M’s garments are still not receiving living wages,” says Ineke Zeldenrust, lobby and advocacy coordinator at Clean Clothes Campaign. According to H&M’s own figures, workers producing their garments in Bangladesh, for example, reportedly earned 95 USD per month in 2017. Contrast that with Asia Floor Wage living wage benchmark for Bangladesh: roughly 450 USD. “It is also obvious to anyone who has followed this as closely as we have that H&M is now trying to cover up the original commitment altogether,” says Zeldenrust.
Indeed, instead of fulfilling the commitment, H&M has watered it down yet further: to the aim of supplier factories representing 50% of product volume using the Fair Wage Method, according to the brand’s latest sustainability report. Whether or not this actually leads to the workers being paid a living wage by 2018 is not addressed at all in the report. Furthermore, H&M has seemingly purged its website of the documents that specified its original commitment back in 2013.
“With less than a year left for the world’s second largest retailer to prevent becoming known as a full-blown ‘socialwasher’, Clean Clothes Campaign is calling upon H&M’s executives to stop ducking their responsibility, and to immediately stop the scandal of poverty wages in H&M’s supply chain. PR spinning and empty claims of progress simply will not do,” notes Neva Nahtigal, campaign strategist and public outreach coordinator at Clean Clothes Campaign.
Together with international partners, Clean Clothes Campaign will be making sure throughout the year that consumers are aware of H&M’s 2013 living wage commitment, of the brand’s ability to fulfill it, and of the current practice: stacking shelves on the backs of workers who have to constantly worry about how they will feed their families, keep the roof over their head, send children to school, pay for doctors’ visits and cover other basic needs.