A Responsible Persson: H&M’s Boss Argues for Wage Hikes

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October 26, 2012 in Labor & Economy

Karl-Johan Persson

These pages are filled with stories of bad corporate actors — companies that attempt to boost profits by cutting labor costs at the expense of safe and ethical work environments. It’s a pleasure, then, to report on a multinational company’s CEO who is trying to make a difference.

Karl-Johan Persson, the CEO of H&M, recently traveled to Bangladesh, a country from which the fashion giant sources tons of textiles, to meet with Prime Minister Sheik Hasina and ask that textile workers be paid a fair wage.

The visit was pure activism as H&M does not actually own any Bangladeshi factories, it simply sources from the country. The argument Persson used with the PM is strikingly similar to that used by U.S. living wage advocates: A higher wage will be good for the country, not just workers.

Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire reports on the strategy behind the visit:

In addition to working with suppliers to increase wages, H&M is now hoping that Persson’s meeting with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister will influence the government to increase the minimum wage, thus leveling the playing field for all companies purchasing from the country, including H&M competitors, GAP, Zara and Uniqlo.

Now Prime Minister Hasina has all the reason to pay attention to Persson’s argument as the result is likely to benefit multiple stakeholders with vested interests in the country’s development.

Helena Helmersson, H&M’s Head of Sustainability, spoke to Fibre2Fashion on the company’s code of conduct, which inspired the unprecedented visit to Bangladesh and joint-efforts with Swedish union IF Metall to lift up workers in the Cambodian textile industry:

No matter which approach we use, I am convinced we all have the same goal: fair wages for the garment workers in the textile industry. A fair wage is what H&M mean when we, in our Code of Conduct, state that our ambition is that “Everyone who works has the right to a just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity.

Attention Walmart – this is responsible sourcing.

Matthew McDermott is a Unionosity editorial assistant and outreach coordinator. His post is republished with permission.

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