News article

Fair living wages – what did we promise and what progress have we made?

In 2013, H&M launched a strategy to support the development of fair living wages in the textile industry. We are getting closer to the first milestone in this important and long-term work. What did we promise in 2013 and what progress have we made?

We want the wages to increase and are fully committed to our long-term vision that all textile workers should earn a fair living wage. This is the reason why we created our strategy five years ago. Within our strategy, we work to set the foundation and mechanisms needed for fair living wages.

We agree with UN-body ILO and the global trade union IndustriALL that wages in countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Cambodia should be negotiated and set by the parties on the labour market. It is also important that there is a legal framework in the country which enables this process.

That is why our work focuses on contributing to such a development; where wages are set in negotiations between the parties on the labour market. It is also about strengthening the textile workers’ position and helping them and their employers (the textile factories) to have a good workplace dialogue. We also support industry-wide collective bargaining agreements.

Our 2018 goal

When we launched our fair living wage strategy five years ago, we set a bold goal for the end of 2018. This goal consists of two parts.

The first part of our goal for end 2018 is for the supplier factories we work with the most* to have democratically elected worker representatives in place. So far, we have covered more than 450 factories (representing 52% of our product volume) in different countries with our workplace dialogue and industrial relations programmes, which means that more than 620,000 workers are now represented by worker representatives. We have already achieved this part of the goal, but our work will continue to cover more factories and workers.

The second part of the goal is about helping the supplier factories we work with the most* to implement transparent wage management systems that facilitate wage negotiations, and wages that take each worker’s skills, experience and responsibility into account. We aim to have this in place by the end of 2018 and we are on our way to achieve this goal. This has so far been carried out at 227 factories (representing 40% of our product volume) reaching 375,000 workers.

We have the same size and reach of our ambition now as in 2013 when we set these goals. However, it is only a milestone; our work will continue with the same pace also after 2018.

Our long-term vision is – and has always been – that all textile workers should earn a fair living wage.

Brands and trade unions working together

However, to be able to set the foundation for fair living wages the industry needs to go together. The challenges are the same for all brands and we need to find solutions that will benefit all factories. A single brand cannot solve this on its own; it is far more effective to push the development forward together. That is what we do for example within a platform called ACT, where we collaborate with global brands and the trade union IndustriALL. Together, we support the development of industry-wide collective bargaining agreements. Equally important is the commitment from national governments since they are responsible for creating minimum wages and the legal framework needed for a fair living wages.

Together with many others, we work on a daily basis with challenges that come with an establishment in countries where the labour market is not yet fully developed, where institutions need to be established and where parts of the populations live in poverty. The solution is not to stop buying products from these countries. On the contrary, the best way to fight poverty is free trade and the best way to support the textile worker is to buy products he or she made.

*Supplier factories representing 50% of our product volume.