H&M “Conscious”? More like “Unconscious,” according to a new spoof campaign designed to underscore the high incidence of “mass faintings” that take place in Cambodia’s garment factories. Created by the Clean Clothes Campaign, an alliance of organizations in 15 European countries dedicated to improving working conditions in the global garment and sportswear industries, “Unconscious Collapses” denounces the Swedish retailer for its alleged promotion of poverty pay, malnutrition, and unsafe workplace conditions in the Southeast Asian nation’s thriving garment industry.
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This isn’t the first time the apparel manufacturer has been dinged by such accusations. In October, H&M came under fire after a Swedish broadcast claimed the retailer wasn’t doing enough to raise the salaries of the Cambodian workers who produce its clothing.
In October, a Swedish broadcast accused the retailer for doing little to negotiate pay raises.
“H&M claims that [its] clothes are made with responsibility for people and environment, but hundreds of overworked and malnourished workers faint during their daily work,” says Christa Luginbühl, a coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign says. “A fashion collection cannot be ‘conscious,’ ‘sustainable,’ or ‘responsible’ if a producer denies garment workers the basic human right for a living wage.”
By its own admission, H&M says it has “more to do” to promote higher wages for garment workers. “We believe that everyone in the fashion industry should earn a fair wage that is enough to live on,” it wrote in its 2012 sustainability report, noting that Karl-Johan Persson, the company’s CEO, met with the Bangladeshi Prime Minster, Sheikh Hasina, in 2012, to underline H&M’s support for higher minimum wages and regular wage reviews.
“It’s a complex challenge,” it added, “but we keep working hard together with our suppliers, their workers, industry peers, and governments, and by setting up model factories to achieve the needed systemic change.”
But here’s where the rubber hits the road: H&M made more than €2 billion in profits in 2012 alone, says Luginbühl. “It is the company`s duty to pay a fair share to the workers who make their clothes and guarantee that they have a living wage to cover basic needs, such as food. H&M, as an industry leader, could trigger a change in the sector by committing to a living wage,” she adds.