H&M backs Bangladesh building safety accord

Sweden's retail giant H&M has decided to sign up to a building safety agreement in the wake of the factory collapse that killed more than 1,000 garment workers in Bangladesh.

H&M backs Bangladesh building safety accord

“Today H&M publicly commits to support the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, initiated by IndustryALL and UNI Global Union,” the Swedish company announced in a statement on Monday.

While H&M did not buy products from the Bangladeshi factory in question, the brand has figured among the names of other global retail giants that depend on third-country subcontractors for deliveries. Observers have questioned who in the global supply-chain has ultimate responsibility.

H&M was quick to underscore that the new accord was in line with previous commitments that the Swedish fashion brand had embraced.

“Based on a study that was conducted in 2011, the concern of lapsed fire safety licenses was raised with the government of Bangladesh,” H&M noted in its press release on Monday, adding that the company had introduced fire safety education to its suppliers that same year.

The NGO Avaaz was one of several observers raising their voice for further action after the factory collapse. It focused its campaigning on the Gap and H&M to sign agreements to further safeguard the safety of workers at the end of their supply chain, and a spokesman told The Local on Friday that a full page advertisement asking the H&M CEO to commit to such an agreement was pulled by the business daily Dagens Industri.

“I’m so sorry but we couldn’t approve the creative. If it wasn’t so personally against Karl-Johan Persson it would have been OK,” responded a sales representative in an email that The Local was given access to.

“These factories aren’t sweatshops, they’re deathshops,” Avaaz Campaign Director Alex Wilks commented last week as the NGO campaigned for more industry commitment to building safety regulations.

“Now 780,000 people around the world are calling on the CEOs of H&M and GAP to sign the pact to stop more Bangladesh fashion disasters.”

On Monday, H&M underlined that its new commitment would be backed up by its strong presence in Bangladesh.

“(It) gives us the opportunity to contribute to the improvement of the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and contribute to the community’s development,” said sustainability head Helena Helmersson.

Ann Törnkvist

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H&M competitor to sponsor Sweden’s Olympic team

Six months after establishing itself in Stockholm, Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo has announced it will sponsor Sweden’s athletes at the 2020 Olympics.

H&M competitor to sponsor Sweden's Olympic team
Anna Hasselborg of Sweden's curling team tries out new kit supplied for the country's athletes by Uniqlo. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The clothing chain, one of the world’s fastest-growing retail companies, is also set to open more stores in the Scandinavian country.

“Swedes are so sophisticated and warm-hearted,” Uniqlo Europe CEO Taku Morikawa said, stressing how welcome his company has been made to feel.

Morikawa was in Sweden to present the partnership between Uniqlo and the Swedish Olympic Committee at an event at Uniqlo’s store on Hamngatan in Stockholm.

Sweden’s athletes wore teamwear supplied by H&M at the last two Olympic Games.

The Stockholm store, Uniqlo’s first in the Nordic region, opened its doors in August 2018. An expansion is now planned on the Swedish market, although Morikawa declined to reveal where.

“We definitely have plans to open more stores here,” he said.

A store will also open in Danish capital Copenhagen in the coming spring as Uniqlo’s holding company Fast Retailing continues its global expansion.

Sales figures in Sweden’s clothing retail sector have seen a downward trend in recent years, with an exception in 2015.

H&M is usually cited as one of Uniqlo’s main competitors.

The impact of a new player on an already-competitive market is difficult to predict, according to the Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel).

“Locally, competition is sharpened, but competition is already fierce. I would be inclined to say that this type of partly new concept store can, instead, help to revitalise the physical retail sector for clothing,” the association’s head economist Johan Davidson said.  

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