Fast fashion retailer H&M will pay more than lip service to corporate responsibility in 2013. In the aftermath of the tragic factory fires that killed more than 100 workers in Bangladesh last year, global attention has shifted to unsafe working conditions and general lack of corporate accountability in the apparel and textile industry.
In H&M’s annual sustainability report, released last Thursday, the Swedish company said that it will continue to “push for” improved wages and safety conditions. More impressively–or at least more tangibly–the retailers has also published a list of almost all factories used by H&M suppliers. Helena Helmersson, H&M’s global head of sustainability, told Women’s Wear Daily that it’s unusual for fashion companies to publish such lists, which make them vulnerable to poaching from competitors. Still, H&M hopes other companies will follow their lead.
“The fire in Bangladesh was so terribly tragic because we’ve known of the problem for years,” Helmersson said. H&M is Bangladesh’s largest source of contracts for their apparel factories, seconded by Wal-Mart, but Helmersson dismissed the idea of sourcing their apparel elsewhere. “[Other retailers] have had discussions about leaving Bangladesh,” she said. “I’ve never seen a company actually leave a country. When you leave a country it’s really not good for the country and the workers.”
According to the published list, H&M works with a total of 785 suppliers, and 1,798 factories globally.