H&M Living Wage: Did H&M promise to pay living wages in 2018?

H&M is saying its goal has stayed the same, and they are right on track. Is that true?

No, that is not true, and H&M is not on track to fulfil its original commitment at the time this campaign is being launched. Instead of admitting that this is the case, corporate public relations experts are trying to divert attention from how the commitment has been watered down through the years.

In fact, original documents published in 2013 have disappeared from H&M’s corporate website! Why take them down if not because there is something in them that H&M would like to hide? Thankfully, the groundbreaking commitment H&M made in 2013 sparked so much interest that the original wording can still be found, despite H&M’s concerted efforts to cover it up.

This is what H&M committed to in 2013: „In a first step, our goal is that H&M’s strategic suppliers should have pay systems in place to pay a fair living wage by 2018. By then, this will affect 850,000 textile workers.“ (emphasis added). This is how the commitment sounds in the brand’s latest sustainability report: „Supplier factories representing 50% of product volume should be using the Fair Wage Method by 2018 and 90% of business partners should regard H&M as a fair business partner by 2018.““

I have not found the original documents where H&M states their promises because they were apparently taken down by H&M. Jeff, can you send them to me? I understand that CCC states that H&M committed this:

In a first step, our goal is that H&M’s strategic suppliers should have pay systems in place to pay a fair living wage by 2018.

You might read this as a promise to pay living wages – but I would rather read it as having proper pay systems in place and not about the wages that will be paid (ETI rightly criticizes that H&M focuses on outputs, not outcomes).

Is this good PR? Is this done intentionally by H&M? Or are journalists interpreting things wrongly? Maybe this is „good“ PR: Last year I was criticising the German quality newspaper ZEIT for portraying facts about H&M wrongly. They wrote that „Bis 2020 plant H&M nur noch Biobaumwolle, bis 2030 nur noch vollständig recycelte Materialien zu verarbeiten – …“ – but basically H&M promised „Our aim is for all cotton in our range to come from sustainable* sources by 2020.“ – and in the footnote H&M clearly says that sustainable sources is also BCI – which journalists turn into organic cotton.

Neva & Jeff – I am happy to add more arguments from „lost and found“ – but I did not find this. Please send me the original documents that you are referring to.

I now received a link to this Lost & Found document. Maybe I am blind, but in this document I do not find a claim that living wages should be paid, but only:

„VISION: A Fair Living Wage, covering workers basic needs, should be paid by all our commercial goods suppliers.“ – Well, H&M included a spelling mistake into this roadmap, but this is a vision, not a promise. 

„FACTORY OWNERS: H&M’s strategic suppliers should have pay structures in place to pay a fair living wage by 2018.“ – This is also not the promise that they acutall pay living wages. 

Honestly, I am a bit lost now regarding the promise.