The Clean Clothes Campaign has taken H&M to task for launching a new capsule collection for children in support of the World Wildlife Fund. In a statement on Thursday, the international labor-rights group denounced the line of certified-organic-cotton dresses, sweaters, T-shirts, leggings, and trousers, which feature endangered animal species such as the tiger, panda, snow leopard, and polar bear, as marketing chicanery that fails to address the central problems of “fast fashion.” While the garments are a byproduct of an ongoing partnership between the Swedish apparel retailer and the wildlife conservation group to tackle issues such as water pollution and climate change, the Clean Clothes Campaign called for context—and a dose of skepticism.
NOT SO WILD
The World Wildlife Fund is more sanguine about H&M’s influence, particularly concerning the environment.
In previous efforts to minimize the Swedish retailer’s water footprint, the nonprofit says it helped H&M develop China’s first water-stewardship guidelines for the textile industry, implement standards for better water and chemical management in over 500 wet-processing suppliers, and contribute to the survival of the river porpoise in the Yangtze River.
The Clean Clothes Campaign, on the other hand, is less easily swayed.
“H&M has been working determinedly on portraying themselves as a responsible company without actually changing their core business practices,” the Clean Clothes Campaign said.
“While H&M and WWF attempt to reduce water pollution and promote ‘closed loop’ recycling management, H&M continues to pursue a business model that relies heavily on high sales volumes, rapid growth rates and overconsumption, and is therefore truly unsustainable at heart,” the group said. “The Clean Clothes Campaign fears that the company is once again profiting from a marketing opportunity that will lead to little change for affected people and may mislead consumers.”
The Clean Clothes Campaign expressed a similar frustration over H&M’s disinclination to quantify what constitutes a “fair living wage” for workers, making it difficult to measure progress toward achieving specific goals.
A recent investigation by the organization also questioned working conditions in factories that H&M considers “best in class.”
Workers from three of H&M’s so-called “platinum” suppliers and one “gold” supplier reported arbitrary wage deductions, restrictions on bathroom breaks, lack of freedom of association, and chronic fainting on the factory floor.
“H&M has been working determinedly on portraying themselves as a responsible company without actually changing their core business practices,” the Clean Clothes Campaign said. “By sustaining their cheap production and at the same time increasing their sales at high profit margins, the company is profiting twofold—at the expense of workers’ rights.”
The H&M for WWF collection is available for a limited time in stores worldwide and online at www.hm.com. Ten percent of the garments’ sales price will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund’s efforts to protect species at risk.