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H&M Says It Didn’t Know Its Clothes Were Being Made At Cambodian Factory

Stockholm retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB (H & M) says orders for some of its clothing were placed without its knowledge at the Cambodian factory where the collapse of a worker rest area on May 20 injured 23 people.

The Cambodian collapse was the latest in an ongoing series of deadly factory fires and collapsed buildings which have recently plagued the apparel and textile industries in  Asia and  Southeast Asia .

H & M’s apparent unawareness of its sources at this factory reflects the company’s lack of control over its supply chain, and suggests that other retailers and makers may lack similar oversight of their sourcing.

The factory where the accident occurred was not approved by H & M, according to a statement from the firm’s media relations office.  H & M apparel wound up being made at this particular factory because another approved — but yet-to-be-identified — supplier placed an order there, according to the company.

“This is not acceptable, since we have a clear policy that all production has to take place in units approved by H & M.,” said Andrea Roos, an H & M media spokesperson.

This could mean other makers and retailers, including those with strict standards for factory approval, still have their manufacturing done in hazardous factories without their knowledge by contractors who farm out orders.

Clothing made for Wal-Mart and Sears were found in the charred rubble of last year’s Tanzeen Fashions Ltd. fire in Bangladesh.  Both firms claimed they had not approved the use of the factory for manufacturing their products.

Some Cambodian labor advocates challenged H & M’s inability to monitor its production in Cambodia.

“In a small, homogenous market like Cambodia, it’s inconceivable that they [H & M] can’t keep track of where their products are going,” said David Welsh, Cambodia country director for Solidarity Center, a labor advocacy group allied with the AFL-CIO.

H & M apologized for the accident and required the previously unknown Cambodian manufacturer of its goods to take full responsibility for the injured workers.  The anonymous supplier accepted.

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