Part Three – Ethical Troubles: H&M

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

Many businesses establish themselves with strong ethical principles, but committing to a wholly ethical business plan has its difficulties…

The H&M group started as a single womenswear store in Sweden in 1947, and has grown into six fashion brands and 4,351 stores in 64 markets both online and in store.

Named as one of the world’s most ethical companies in 2016 by Ethisphere, H&M aim to make ‘sustainable, good quality fashion accessible to as many people as possible’. The company is dedicated to creating a better future for fashion, using both their brand reach to drive development towards a more circular and inclusive fashion industry.

hm wikimedia commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

They are dedicated environmentalists, utilising renewable resources to produce their electricity and transporting goods by rail and sea to reduce carbon dioxide production. They are also one of the world’s biggest buyers of organic cotton.

However, this accolade has seen considerable backlash, as H&M clothing is produced in factories in some of the poorest areas on earth.

People are struggling to accept that a company that utilises sweatshops in the production of its clothing could be an ethical company.

marissaorton flickr
Sweatshop workers. Photo: marissaorton/Flickr

Machinists work long hours for minimal pay and although H&M conduct both announced and unannounced checks for underage workers, they cannot guarantee every worker is of legal working age.

Their factories’ poor safety standards mean there is little regulation on the conditions under which employees are working and the factories themselves are prone to accidents. In 2010, a fire swept a H&M factory in Bangladesh, killing 21 workers.

“We’re such a huge company operating in very challenging conditions,” said Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability for H&M.“What I can say is that we do the best we can with a lot of resources and a clear direction of what we are supposed to do. We’re working really hard.”

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