As a former employee of H&M, i have varying issues with this company – first of all, i was not sacked from the company, i worked here for a long time and rose through the ranks quickly. I also quickly learned that despite employing a diverse and often lovely bunch of staff at all levels, the company has little regard for humans as a whole – whether it be staff or customers. Their ethics are dubious at every level, so i was interested to see their launch of a ‘conscious’ collection.

http://www.hm.com/gb/conscious-collection#inspiration/0

If the ‘horse meat scandals’ of this year have taught us anything, it is to question our sources before we purchase a product – years of blindly buying what is presented to us on our shelves has made us numb to the tricks of advertising. That’s what its there for, to make you buy no matter what. So ‘low fat’ can mean fattier that our previous product but comparatively low, mascaras models wear lash inserts in ads giving us a false idea of what the product achieves, and clothing projects an unrealistic idea of body shape due to sizing that disregards modern body proportions.

In this case, calling their range conscious in light of the repeated reports of slave labour standards in their affiliated factories over the years, made me instantly cynical:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/25/india-clothing-workers-slave-wages

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I would argue, that if these were white people in the UK, there would be uproar, but being India we have all become numb to this. This is not sustainable – if we use slave labour we create a double standard of humanity that spreads. If large corporations had their way, this would be happening in our ‘civilised’ states – we are all aware of the ‘Poundland’ controversy and it’s a good example of how we can stand up to this slide in standards. It also begs the question, are we fine with others suffering so we can have more cheap clothes – do we need all this STUFF? Id say no, of course.

When i worked for H&M, i had my first experience of workplace bullying, i was unable to wear the clothing as it didn’t fit me (I was a size 12 at the time) and i experienced staff regularly making open jokes anbout the Big Is Beautiful range which was shoved at the back of the store until i was assigned to it – being someone who could “sympathise with the customer”…i’ll read that as fat eh? I regularly worked unpaid overtime, the wages were incredibly low for the supervisory level i worked at (this was pre-minimum wage) and the manager produced such a high staff turn over through her management ‘technique’ that we regularly had to re recruit. At no time was any of this addressed, and being a naive 18 year old, i did little about it. I did, however, tell people to ignore the sizing, fed back complaints and read their responses to the sweat shop allegations they regularly faced – this is what lead me to leave the company.

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Given the efforts to improve their carbon footprint are admirable, their recycling is to be applauded – but the levels of waste produced by their huge stores with fast fashion and all its packaging is something they have done little about. I would also question the policy of stores such as this taking in old stock to ‘recycle’ – where does it go? Do they sell it on? And does it push prices up for more ethical manufacturers and charity stores once producers reclaim and re sell their stock? Wait:

You’re buying it,

using it,

and taking it back to them…and you have no promise as to what happens to it?

There are vagaries laid out in their policies, but ti seems that they are making profit out of what others do for free and thus crippling the recycle / upcycle chain and preventing charitable deeds.

Nice.

Here are their ‘policies’:

http://about.hm.com/AboutSection/en/About/Sustainability.html

There are commitments and ideas, but no promises – and what of reducing this waste by producing less, raising prices reasonably: thus enabling workers high wages and better conditions instead of impossible production targets?

Its a bit of a horse that has already bolted for me..and i know there are those who will defend he H&M brand. You’re brand loyal or like the clothes – hey, i love their clothes, but they can be sourced elsewhere, and being brand loyal to a store of this size, honey that’s beyond unwise. You’re being brainwashed, and as the evidence shows, they care little about you, your planet or your body image. Their promises are thinly veiled PR.

Just re read the statement below – a wonderful of vague PR and an open statement of ‘there’s a limit to our regard for human life’

H&M’s auditors carry out regular checks to ensure that there are no underage workers in the factories. It is extremely rare for child labour to be discovered at H&M’s suppliers or their subcontractors. Should this nonetheless happen, H&M requires the supplier to take responsibility and, together with H&M and the family, to find a solution in the best interests of the child. An investigation is then carried out, looking at how best to resolve the situation based on the child’s interests. On many occasions, the solution will involve the supplier contributing financially so that the child can receive an education, while compensating the family for the loss of income. If H&M discovers repeated breaches of its ban on child labour at a supplier – or one of its subcontractors – the cooperation will be ended for good

https://www.hm.com/gb/customer-service/faq/our-responsibility

Then read the question about H&M’s independent auditors. The more you read, the more you see.

So, look into what you’re buying – here at Kecks i’m open about my processing, it’s mainly just me, but it enables me to see how as an employer you have a responsibility to your staff and to the planet. Using small improvemnts as a marketing tool is not enough – if you are compromising your worker’s welfare, you are in defiance of human rights, if you produce huge amounts of waste through over production and packaging, youre destryoing the planet. You dont deserve the money of those who do care, and as people who do, lets encourage others to read the lable a little more closely. Make these companies earn our money.

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One thought on “H & M: Always question your sources.

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