Helena Helmersson, Head of Sustainability of Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) has elaborated little bit on the issue of wages in the textile industry. As most other fashion brands, we don´t own the factories. Instead we buy garments from suppliers. Hence, we don’t pay the wages to the factory workers. Regarding the statutory minimum wage, i.e. the wage the least skilled workers in the factories earn, it is decided by the local government.
Even though we as a buyer don´t set or pay the wages, we have without a doubt, a responsibility to everyone who contributes to our business - including being properly compensated for the work performed. That's why we continuously work to influence those in power of wages.
The most recent example is when H&M's CEO visited Bangladesh in September 2012 to meet with the Prime Minister. To my knowledge, no other company has taken such an initiative on such high level.
In Cambodia, we are currently introducing a unique project in collaboration with one of Sweden’s largest unions, IF Metall. Starting next year we will work together to strengthen the dialogue between the parties in the Cambodian textile industry. The goal is to improve the dialogue between employers and employees which allow them to find agreements through negotiation instead of confrontation, as often seen today.
As there is no industry standard on how buyers should promote higher wages. No matter which approach we use, I am convinced we all have the same goal; fair wages for the garment workers in the textile industry. A fair wage is what H&M mean when we, in our Code of Conduct, state that our ambition is that “Everyone who works has the right to a just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity”.
In 2011, H&M joined The Fair Wage Network which works to bring together fashion brands, garment producers, NGOs, worker representatives and researchers to promote fair wages around the world. I want to share Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead, Founder and co-Chair of the Fair Wage Network and responsible for wage issues at the United Nations International Labour Organization, view on Fair Wage:
“The strength of the Fair Wage approach lies in its multidimensional nature. By collecting data and information on 12 complementary dimensions, it captures the whole wage story in the enterprise. The living wage is one of those but is not the only one. Because Fair Wage is not only about a number but also helps the enterprise to improve its pay systems, adjustment mechanisms and social dialogue on wages, thus leading to sustainable wage developments”.
We are dependent on stable markets in which people are treated with respect and with our dedication we can contribute to positive development. We wish to remain a customer even when problems arise – as long as there is a willingness to improve, since we want to stay on and create genuine improvement.