The rumors are true, H&M is using social movements to advertise rather than using their natural publicity to promote social movements. Recently, this Swedish retailer came out with their new fall line advertising by promoting feminism and breaking down the societal stereotypes of females. So why is this bad?
Unfortunately, it is a really easy trap to fall into. Who wouldn’t want to support a company that is promoting a more equal society? I definitely would! However, if you go beyond the ad we quickly find that H&M is not promoting feminism nor a more equitable society.
Although they claim to have a strict code of conduct that they make all their partner-factories comply to, the workers are being paid very low wages, working forced over time, children are being hired, and women are being fired during pregnancies. This doesn’t sound like a better society or one of feminism in the slightest.
This is not a small problem either. In fact, workers were interviewed in Cambodian and Indian factories. 11 out of 12 of the Cambodian factories workers has witnessed workers losing their job during pregnancy along with all five Indian factories.
H&M has claimed to be working to create a better life for textiles workers for many years but it has been three years since the fire in the Rana Plaza Complex, in which over 1,000 workers were killed, and conditions have not improved. In fact 70% of their strategic supplier still lack fire exits and other life-saving features despite the fact that H&M signed an ‘Accord on Fire and Building Safety In Bangladesh’. Not to mention, although they do not ban unionization they make it impossible to do so.
This company has a great reputation of ‘transparency’ and ‘responsiveness’ but each of these qualities does not go beyond the surface. This is an important lesson in looking beyond the policies and publicity into the enforcement and reality of what is happening.
Beyond the abuse of human rights in their factories, H&M is a great example of a company that supports ‘fast-fashion’ which feeds into the consumeristic society. Rather than buying nice clothes in order that you don’t have to re-buy, H&M does not create quality or lasting clothing. Also, with the cheap prices it gives us the idea that we can buy more with what we saved instead of giving what you save to someone who needs it.
H&M has seen a little progress over the past three years but the slow pace of this change is very concerning. That coupled with their lack of following through on policies has made H&M a company that should not be quickly supported by a conscious shopper.
Written By: Katelynn Behrens