H&M’s possible price rise


H&M logoThe Swedish fashion giant H&M says it may raise retail prices in the future in order to pay better wages to some of the world’s poorest textile workers.

The admission came at a meeting with pressure groups in Stockholm where H&M unveiled plans to improve pay rates for textile workers in countries such as Bangladesh where the minimum wage is around $US2 ($A2.20) a day.

Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability at H&M, on Monday told AFP that higher retail prices “might be a possibility” in the long term but that customers should not expect any price hikes in the near future.

Some corporate watchdogs saw the acknowledgement as a significant breakthrough.

“It’s the first time ever they have said they were willing to raise prices and that consumers were now ready for that,” said Viveka Risberg from Swedwatch, which monitors Swedish multinational corporations.

“It’s going to take years to get to a living wage in Bangladesh but I’m more hopeful now they have opened up to involving all the stakeholders — the unions, the workers the suppliers and the government.”

H&M first announced its Fair Living Wage policy in November and said in a statement that “all textile workers should be able to live on their wage” but that progress towards that was too slow in some countries where many workers still live below the poverty line.

Helmersson said the company would use its size and influence with suppliers to push for fairer wages, training for workers and recognition of the role of trade unions in pay negotiations.

She added that the company was also lobbying governments to raise minimum wage levels, and introduce annual reviews, pointing to the recent hike to $US67 per month introduced by the Bangladeshi government as one sign of improvement.

The company has set a goal of raising the wages of 850,000 textile workers worldwide by 2018.


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