I find H&M to be interesting after going abroad and seeing one of their store locations in every city I visited. H&M is a Swedish clothing and accessary store that offers six different brands all targeting men, women, and children. The mantra of H&M is to be affordable while also being trendy. H&M has 3,900 locations around the world, 900 suppliers and they also employ over 2,000 people. Another element of H&M is that they call themselves a sustainable company, at always the best price. There was a time when I believed H&M was a great sustainable company until I learned that they did not include all aspects of what it means to be sustainable or even just good management into their business.
In 2013 H&M signed an accord to pay more attention to their factories in Bangladesh after Rana Plaza collapsed leaving 1,000 workers dead. Rana Plaza housed five garment factories leaving lots of damage and pollution to the area. H&M is not alone, 200 other companies also manufacture their clothes in Bangladesh, so far and out of sight from where they actually do business. H&M put out a statement after the collapse of a detailed plan of their work life and experience. It is broken down into three factors, using influence as positive change, rewarding responsible partners and protecting children. They are on the right track by having these motives in place but it is how they execute them that are most important.
In 2015 the clean clothes campaign voiced that H&M was behind schedule in fixing dangerous hazards found in their factories. After researching what happened in Bangladesh, many activists wrote that H&M only signed an accord and took “action” of the issue of work life because they were hounded with activist outside their stores and corporate offices. It is sad that H&M had to be harassed by activist in order to want to improve working conditions in Bangladesh. Again H&M is not alone; other companies are also behind in updating working conditions. H&M is the most targeted by the clean clothes initiative because it is the largest producer manufacturing out of Bangladesh, they hold a lot of leverage to how workers and factory life is portrayed.
In the study that the clean clothes campaign organized, H&M was dramatically behind schedule, which is risky due to many fire hazards. Much of their work conditions pose a fire threat, which put their workers and products at a high risk. The improvements to be made in the factories include safe and easy ways to get to fire exits, lockable and sliding doors as well as collapsible gates that will make it easy for workers to exit without harm from the building. During the fall of 2015 H&M wrote in their sustainability report that all these improvements had already been made when they were actually behind schedule.
Moving forward I do think it is good H&M is identifying on their personal website what they need to change and make a priority. It will be interesting to see the actions they actually take in the next couple of months to improve working conditions.