Breaking news: irresponsible fast fashion company is racially insensitive.
The Swedish brand H&M has been under fire since Monday night, ever since they released a hoodie on a black model that reads, “Coolest monkey in the jungle.”
Celebrities like The Weeknd, Diddy, and LeBron James have all spoken out against the company. The Weeknd, who has been working with the company since 2017, announced that he will no longer be affiliated with them, according to an article by CBS News.
While this advertisement is lacking taste at best, it can still be chalked up to mistakes. Company executives can claim it was an unhappy accident or a cultural miscommunication (although when you’re a global brand that shouldn’t be happening, but that’s another article for another day).
However, H&M is an environmentally and socially irresponsible brand; that is no accident.
According to the company, they are committed to ensuring the workers who create their garments are treated fairly and justly. They pride themselves on two-thirds of their employees being female, giving them “a first step towards independence.”
Unfortunately, the people (mostly women between the ages 18 and 35) employed in garment manufacturing are not treated as fairly as the company wants consumers to think.
Here are a few of the facts from a report created by a number of accredited foundations for the International Labor Organization:
- Although workers are paid the legal minimum wage, those amounts are less than half of a living wage.
- H&M’s factories rely on subcontractors to force employees into working extra hours without overtime pay.
- Many factories use illegal contracting to force employees out of seniority benefits including social security and maternity leave.
- 78,842 workers continue to work in buildings without fire exits
Being environmentally sustainable and a fast fashion brand is not only counter productive, but virtually impossible. The business model is just not one that can hold itself to high environmental standards.
No matter what steps fast fashion companies like H&M take to erase their carbon footprint, it is not enough, and H&M’s environmental sustainability manager, Henrik Lampka, acknowledges this in an interview with Quartz Media.
“You have to work for this, systematically. But then in the long run, the negative impact is really linked to resource use,” he tells Quartz.
H&M is a company that has proven time and time again that they aren’t willing to take the necessary steps to be a responsible brand. Hopefully this hoodie scandal will open up a dialogue that allows consumers to learn more about how harmful this industry really is.