On the emotional and media tide of tragedies such as that of Rana Plaza, dating back to five years ago and with the subsequent birth of the Fashion Revolution movement, which has recently been the week, here duly celebrated, the promises of the big clothing chains, those called in for the exploitation of workers in the Third World factories, came raining down, a little as always happens in the aftermath of similar events. Among the fast fashion brands most involved in the tragedy there was the Swedish giant H&M which, a few months later Rana Plaza, precisely in November 2013, announced that 850,000 workers in its supply chain would be paid a fair living wage by 2018.
Well, we are almost halfway through the year of grace 2018, a few days ago was held in Stockholm the annual shareholders’ meeting of H&M but this increase in salary in the pay slips of the poor workers nowhere in sight; but there is more, that is the goal itself has disappeared from H&M’s corporate communication, just as the original documents have disappeared from the brand’s website and the only reference to today is the introduction of the Fair Wage Method by supplier factories. The 850,000 workers and their actual incomes are no longer a part of the picture.
Clean Clothes Campaign, a network of more than 250 partners aiming at improving working conditions and strengthening workers’ rights in the global fashion industry, which launched the ‘Turn around, H&M!’ campaign (at this link you can find the petition to put under pressure H&M to keep its promises) is on the warpath. Campaign activists travelled to Stockholm to express their disappointment because, as David Hachfeld of ‘Turn Around, H & M!’ says, it is not said that the shareholders of the multinational are aware of the campaign’s themes.
Hachfeld also reveals that he has already contacted some European organizations including the Fondazione Finanza Etica, which promote critical shareholding to bring it right into H&M. Meanwhile, the official pay slips numbers published by the Swedish company and reported by the NGOs are nevertheless daunting; in Cambodia, for instance, workers are paid on average 199 USD according to H&M, and that is above the national minimum wage. However, a living wage according to the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) benchmark would be 475 USD. In Bangladesh, which is the country with the lowest wages, as reported also by Andrew Morgan’s documentary ‘The True Cost‘, H&M’s reported figure is 95 USD, but a living wage would be nearly five times as high (448 USD)
But what is missing from a brand like H&M to fulfil the commitment given? Certainly not the financial resources. As the Clean Clothes Campaign states, all that is missing is probably political will.