The Price of Fa$hion

Since the infamous 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh that brought into spotlight the lax safety and security initiatives that caused the deaths of over 1,000 workers (mostly young females), the fashion wear company “H&M” has made strides in trying to redeem itself. Unfortunately, this incident wasn’t the first disaster warning that H&M had; in 2010, 21 workers died in a fire at H&M supplier factory “Garib & Garib,” which lacked critical safety elements, including proper fire exits.

“In the face of worldwide revulsion over the Rana Plaza catastrophe and other garment factory disasters, H&M, the largest producer of garments in Bangladesh, promised to address hazardous conditions in its contract factories there,” said Scott Nova of the Worker Rights Consortium. “It is now clear that H&M has broken this promise.”

However, in the face of what could’ve been certain business failure, H&M has tried to initiate changes to their supply chain in somewhat of a Nike-esque way by rewarding their “responsible” supply partners and severing their contracts with factories that won’t (or can’t) meet their updated requirements. Additionally, H&M has sponsored the influence of local labor unions, which have seen a 20% increase since the Bangladesh catastrophe. More noticeably, two years since that unfortunate event, H&M was among the first of the corporations in a coalition of businesses that worked through Rana Plaza to donate funds to the newly established “Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.” Unlike the other contractor companies that drug their feet in feeling the responsibility to financially support their Rana Plaza supplier as a third world country factory, H&M received great praise for jumping on board so quickly. This organization receives funds from any company or organization with a clear mission that “the contributions in the Trust Fund will be used exclusively to cover payments to Rana Plaza victims and their families.” 

Granted, none of these measure are preventative, and most can be viewed as a way to restore the brand name of H&M. Regardless, the measures have taken effect in the local areas; for example, out of 3,508 factories identified as exporting clothing from Bangladesh, almost 75% have now gone through building fire and safety assessments. As a result, 35 factories have been closed for failing to comply with structural integrity standards. Again, some could see this as unemployment for some, and life saving for others. I believe it is fair to say that H&M still has a ways to go with strengthening their supply chain, but if they continue to model their restoration efforts as they have been in the fashion of Nike, they can be well on their way to being loved for their products and their processes.




4 thoughts on “The Price of Fa$hion

  1. Even if the manufacturers are getting better in terms of regulations, we saw that in Nike’s case the regulations were not exactly upheld with the most integrity. Specifically, the companies know when the regulators are coming for the checkups and make it seem as though the manufacturer is running better than it actually is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. West makes a good point about the corruption and loop hopes that companies and factories engage in in order to pass inspection, etc., but I also do agree that H&M has been taking the right steps towards redeeming their brand. As someone who almost always walks into their store whenever I am at a mall (and that’s often), I feel somewhat comforted knowing that they have been taking these steps (severing contract with suppliers who fail to comply with their regulations, donating to Rana Plaza Donors Trust Funds, etc) towards becoming more of a business with corporate social responsibility.

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  3. I was just at H&M for the first time, and I was thinking of this issue. I think an interesting thought experiment would be to consider all of the value that H&M is creating with their practices. With the donations to the trust fund for example; some of the obvious long -term benefits for them are public opinion shifts exemplified by myself and Mona Cheng, but what else?

    Willingness of Bangladesh partners to partner and collaborate? Loyalty and trust between suppliers and H&M leading to more effective partnerships? Increased productivity and lower turn-over rates for workers who feel that their well-being is considered?

    Liked by 1 person

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