It is important that our stakeholders and customers get an accurate picture of H&M. Below are some facts about H&M’s sustainability work and the responsibility we take in all the countries in which we operate.
H&M’s worldwide presence
Via our worldwide presence, H&M makes an active contribution to the development of countries and communities as well as to the improvement of the standard of living of a large number of people. Foreign trade plays a crucial role in the countries’ development by generating work opportunities and economic growth.
H&M does not have any factories of its own; instead, our products are manufactured by around 820 independent suppliers with around 1,900 factories in total. Therefore, we indirectly create jobs for over a million people, not least for young women, in the countries that supply us with products. We want to improve the economic and social situation of the locations in which we set up business.
Janet Mensink, international coordinator Cotton & Textiles at the Solidaridad Network, the NGO behind the label Max Havelaar, the starting point for fair trade certification, says: “Solidaridad is proud of its strategic partnership with H&M. Being a game changer in the sector; the collaboration between the two organisations is really effective. We realize the journey towards sustainability is a long journey, but so far what we’ve seen is that H&M is not afraid to take first bold steps. This has resulted in successful programs, such as the cleaner production program in Bangladesh with proven benefits for the local environment and communities. Also in exploring options in Ethiopia, we find in H&M a partner that has ambitious sustainability targets, but a humble and inclusive approach towards local stakeholders”.
H&M and its suppliers
H&M does not own any of the factories that manufacture our products. We have around 820 independent suppliers in Europe and Aisa. China, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia and Turkey are some of the world's biggest textile producers of today, an all are key sourcing markets for us. We concentrate on building a strong, long-term relationship with our suppliers, a relationship that is characterised by trust and transparency. We set high standards for our suppliers and check regularly how they apply them. Just as we demand excellence from our partners, it is our duty to be a reference partner ourselves.
H&M's work for fairer pay
The employees in the textile industry must be able to earn a fair living wage. This demand is included in our Sustainability Commitment, based on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Despite of the fact that H&M does not own any of the factories that manufacture our products, we are actively involved in encouraging the governments in our production countries to support increases in pay in the textile industry. This is why we have launched our roadmap for fair living wage, which is an important contribution to the work towards fairer pay in the textile industry.
Human rights and workers’ rights
In some of the production countries, human rights standards are less developed. For example, too long working hours and a lack of functional industrial relations are remaining common issues in many markets. Therefore, we are working to speed up the processes in a variety of areas. One such case is actively engaging governments to support freedom of association and higher wages for garment workers. Our Sustainability Commitment, which must be signed by all of our suppliers, stipulates that every employee has the right to form or join the association of his or her choice and to take part in collective negotiations.
The problem of overtime is not specific to H&M's suppliers but it is one of the most common challenges throughout the textile industry. Overtime by H&M's suppliers must be within legal limits, be voluntary and be correctly remunerated and is one of the points that we verify at our audits.
We are taking measures aiming to reduce overtime. Within the framework of our commitment to fair living wages, we are continuing to improve our purchasing practices to reduce production peaks at our suppliers. By doing this, we allow them to pay their workers for the real cost of their work and to plan the capacity of their factories. That also implies that we pay a price that allows our suppliers to pay their workers fair a fair wage and thus reduce overtime.
Prices and working conditions
Affordable clothes do not necessarily mean poor working conditions and/or low pay. This is a very widespread misconception. Our products are manufactured alongside products for other brands in the same factories. The workers are paid the same pay, regardless of the brand they produce and independently of the sale price in the shop. H&M is able to join corporate responsibility and affordable prices. They are the result of a combination of several factors such as orders for large volumes, efficient logistics, very few intermediaries and purchases at the right time on the right markets.
Accord on Fire and Building Safety
H&M was not a buyer from the textile factories in the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This does not mean that we are not concerned about the way in which they operate. Therefore, we were amongst the first brands to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. With this commitment, we are able, with other companies, trade unions, employee organisations and the Government of Bangladesh, to influence and contribute to guaranteeing safety conditions in the textile industry in this country. Across this grouping, we are working actively to improve the situation of around 1,600 factories in Bangladesh.
H&M in Ethiopia
H&M is an expanding company and we always look for new sourcing markets. For this reason, we are increasing production in both existing and new markets. We will not stop buying from existing production markets, our presence in all our production markets is long-term.
We believe that we can contribute to economic growth and reduce unemployment in Ethiopia. Our production in the country has been subject to a complete evaluation of risks and opportunities in terms of production and sustainable development. Our evaluation includes analysis of laws and regulations, the human rights situation and the environmental conditions in the country. In this study, we have taken account of our exchanges with the ILO (International Labour Organization) and the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and with local organisations.