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H&M Plans to Pay All Textile Workers ‘Living Wage’ by 2018

A Bangladeshi garment factory | Image credit: Fahad Faisal/Wikimedia Commons

H&M, the world's second-largest clothing retailer, established a roadmap this week to pay a fair “living wage” to 850,000 textile workers by 2018, citing that governments were not acting fast enough. But some are arguing that H&M should move faster, as well.

During the last year, H&M says it has worked on the problem of how to best address wages, both short and long term, on several levels from purchasing practices, supplier practices, workers’ rights to government responsibility.

The company says the roadmap is based on the idea that a fair living wage covering workers' basic needs should be paid by all of its commercial goods suppliers. This will be enabled through H&M’s purchasing practices, and based on a skilled workforce that have their wages negotiated and annually reviewed, involving democratically elected trade unions or worker representatives.

Roadmap

Click for full infographic.

“It has always been our vision that all textile workers should be able to live on their wage,” H&M said in a statement. “That is also stated in our Code of Conduct. We believe that the wage development, driven by, for example, governments in some countries, is taking too long, so we want to take further action and encourage the whole industry to follow. With size comes responsibility and we have the ability to contribute to change.”

While the commitment is an admirable one, some are already criticizing H&M's announcement for its lack of specificity and five-year timeline for implementation.

"If they want to pay living wages, they should pay living wages. They should give themselves a near-term deadline and give the world a number," said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium advocacy group, told the Washington Post. "Just staying 'we're for a living wage, in five years we're going to pay an undefined amount in a subset or our factories,' that's not credible. Where H&M has the power to make it happen now is in the factories now. If they are willing to take the steps necessary, they can achieve it. Why are they not doing that, is the question."

In April, a factory collapse in Bangladesh killed nearly 1,130 people, which put pressure on major brands to improve the working conditions of those making clothes largely for Western companies.

H&M sources most of its garments from factories in Asia, particularly Bangladesh. While H&M did not source from the Rana Plaza factory, it was among the first to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a European-led safety pact for Bangladesh garment factories after the collapse. The company also has urged Bangladesh and Cambodia to raise the minimum wage and revise it annually.

Also, in an effort to build a more transparent supply chain, the fashion company made its supplier factory list public with the release of its annual sustainability report in March.


Mike Hower is a writer, thinker, and strategic communicator most interested in the intersection of sustainable business and policy. Currently based in Washington, D.C., he is a graduate research fellow at George Washington University, where he is pursuing a masters… [Read more about Mike Hower]