image: H&M

image: H&M

H&M released its Sustainability Report 2017 on Thursday, “outlining strong progress towards its vision to lead the change towards a circular and renewable fashion industry, while being a fair and equal company.” The lengthy – and glossy – report might win over some, but the Clean Clothes Campaign (“CCC”) is not backing down from its fight against H&M’s attempts to win over the media and consumers by allegedly grandstanding in terms of its efforts to achieve a more sustainable supply chain.

By way of an open letter dated March 19, 2018, the Netherlands-based watchdog – which is the garment industry’s largest alliance of labor unions and non-governmental organizations – is taking the Swedish fast fashion giant to task over the “widely publicized commitment” it made in November 2013 to pay the workers in its supply chain a living wage by the end of 2018.

If achieved, this would be a “ground-breaking development,” according to the CCC, “as up until today poverty wages remain the norm in the global garment industry, including throughout H&M’s supply chain.”

According to the CCC, “The wages garment workers, most of which are women, currently receive are miles away from what would constitute a living wage: a salary that would enable a worker to live a decent life, including a healthy diet for a worker and their family, proper housing, access to medical care, access to education and transportation and some discretionary income, to use in case of unforeseen events.”

The problem with H&M’s headline-grabbing play, according to the CCC: The Swedish fast fashion giant does not appear to be doing anything to actually achieve it. 

Last year, the watchdog expressed concerns by way of a letter to H&M’s Head of Sustainability in September (and followed up with a November 2017 blog post), in which it called into question the merit of the apparel giant’s vow to pay a “fair living wage” to the garment workers in its supply chain by late 2018. It has since sent and publicly released a March 2018 letter, asserting that “there is not enough publicly available information for anyone to meaningfully assess [H&M’s] efforts” in furtherance of its pledge.

What is obvious to the CCC, however, is that H&M has not provided information “on the Living Wage pilot projects carried out as part of H&M’s commitment, including concrete factory information, wage level and development through time at each factory, and lessons learned,” or its “definition of a ‘fair living wage,’ as well as information on the proposed methodology to calculate a ‘fair wage’ and to make sure that it is actually paid.”

Still yet, the CCC points out that  “H&M has unfortunately rephrased and diluted the laudable sweeping commitment it made in 2013,” by “reducing the number of workers [it aims to pay a living wage], and shifting the responsibility away from [itself] and back to the factory level and the national governments.”

H&M was not immediately available for comment.