What kind of results have you achieved within your Fair Living Wage strategy?
Wages are a very complex issue. This is why we seek guidance from wage experts such as global trade unions, the ILO and the Fair Wage Network. They
believe our role as a brand and buyer is not to set the level of wages. Rather, wages should be negotiated between the parties on the labour market. We share
this view. It would be devastating if foreign companies such as H&M determined wage levels in any countries. In addition, the fact that we share suppliers with many other companies – both high-end and high street brands – makes collaboration even more important to be able to deal with this challenge. It is a shared responsibility.
We believe that everyone working in the textile industry, no matter what brand they are producing for, should earn a fair living wage. For H&M, this is indisputable and the reason why we have developed a global fair living wage strategy that I am really proud of. As collaboration is crucial, our strategy involves not only buyers such as H&M, but also suppliers, textile workers and national governments. We also collaborate with trade unions and NGOs, making it possible to contribute to change throughout the industry. And I am happy to say that our work within wages is showing progress. For example, we signed a global framework agreement with the global trade union IndustriALL and the Swedish trade union IF Metall to further push development forward. We share the belief that a well-functioning dialogue between the parties on the labour market and the strengthening of workers’ rights to collective bargaining are necessary for lasting improvements for workers in the textile industry.
All in all, we want to contribute to a well-functioning process that enables a fair living wage in every way we can. An important part of our fair living wage strategy is the Fair Wage Method, which has been developed by the independent Fair Wage Network. It focuses on establishing good pay structures as well as strengthening the ability for workers to regularly negotiate wages fairly.
What is your view on consumption?
Consumption is necessary for jobs generating taxes that pay for schools, hospitals and infrastructure, but also for developing countries to become part
of international trade and thereby lift themselves out of poverty. If people
stopped consuming, society would be affected negatively. H&M wants to continue growing, but we are committed to growing responsibly. Our growth must always be balanced by sustainable practices.
Like other industries today, the fashion industry, however, is too dependent on natural resources and we need to change the way fashion is made. This is why we are so committed to our mission to reuse garments and close the loop on textiles. By collecting old clothes and turning them into new updated styles instead of letting them go to waste and by investing in new innovation and technology, we are taking important steps towards a circular economy. To further speed up this development, the H&M Foundation has initiated the Global Change Award, an innovation challenge to find great new ideas that help close the loop on textiles. We are currently in the process of setting new goals that will take our sustainability work to the next level, across various key sustainability topics: circularity, climate, transparency, equality and fair jobs, for example. We do this in dialogue with our stakeholders, experts, scientists and many others. We follow a science-based approach aimed at setting new standards for the fashion industry.
What are the main sustainability challenges for H&M and the fashion industry as a whole?
It’s all about closing the loop by reusing textile fibres, suppliers paying their employees a fair living wage and the ambition to increase transparency so
customers can make informed choices. We have taken several important steps
towards a more transparent fashion industry. First, we have invested significant resources in developing our suppliers and building strong longterm relationships based on mutual trust and transparency. Second, we were amongst the first fashion companies to publish our supplier list to which, as the first fashion company, we have now added the second-tier suppliers. Third, this year’s reporting on our work related to human rights has been carried out in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework. We are also committed to transparent reporting on our sustainability performance. One goal is to develop a
consumer labelling system that allows customers to compare products’ sustainability performance, including between different brands. This work is done in collaboration within the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, SAC. This will make it possible for customers to influence companies to a much greater extent than today. The more informed customers become, the more pressure they will put on companies to act sustainably. I have high hopes for this collaboration.
You can only drive real change if you have a collaborative mindset, no matter if it is collaboration about consumer labelling or something else. You cannot do it on your own; it is as simple as that. This is why we want to cooperate within the industry as well as across industry borders. This is why we treasure our dialogue with innovators and experts that help us develop new ideas. This is why we are so proud of our ongoing cooperation with stakeholders such as the ILO, local and global trade unions, the UN Global Compact, NGOs, the WWF and Solidaridad. All of this makes it possible for us to set new even more ambitious sustainability goals that will be released in 2016 and that we hope will lead the way to a sustainable fashion future.