PARIS — Reflecting on efforts needed to improve wages for garment workers, Hennes & Mauritz AB Tuesday pledged to look beyond factories to change working conditions across the industry.
“Every garment worker should earn a wage that is sufficient to live on,” the company said in a statement, on the day it is hosting a fair living wage summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. “It is a fundamental human right.”
Brands, NGOs, trade unions and investors are set to take part in the two-day event.
As consumers become more aware of the environmental and social costs linked to the fashion industry, retailers are under pressure to show they are changing their habits. A factory fire in Bangladesh six years ago, followed by the collapse of the Rana Plaza building months later, prompted international outcry and threw the spotlight on worker conditions.
A report of more than 60 pages by the Ethical Trading Initiative — an association that counts the Swedish fast fashion retailer as a member — applauded the company’s efforts, noting many brands are “conspicuously silent” when it comes to wages. But it said more efforts are needed.
“H&M has shown genuine leadership on the issue of wages, even if it appears to have underestimated the scale of the challenge,” said Peter McAllister, executive director of the organization.
Writers of the report, commissioned by H&M, said it was drawn up by independent reviewers. The study evaluates the company’s efforts to promote fair living wages over the past five years.
It flagged a need for improvement in the basic pay rate for all workers, women in particular. It also suggested the real cost of living in production countries should be calculated, and that public commitments should be more clear and more realistic.
Among H&M’s main achievements, according to the report, is “substantial progress” for improving workers’ ability to negotiate wages and conditions.