Two Questions for H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson: How Do You Promote Transparency and Transformation?

September 29, 2014
  • Eva Dienel

    Former Associate Director, Communications, BSR

Eva Dienel, Associate Director, Communications, BSR

This November, BSR will gather 1,000 leaders from business, government, and civil society at the BSR Conference 2014 in New York to explore sustainable business challenges and opportunities. Given this year’s theme, we asked some of our speakers how they incorporate transparency and transformation into their work.

In this blog, we hear from plenary speaker Karl-Johan Persson, managing director and CEO of H&M.

How do you promote transparency at H&M?
We want to give our consumers confidence that everything they buy from H&M is designed, manufactured, and handled with responsibility for people and the environment. Being transparent is at the heart of this. In March 2013, we became the first fashion retailer to make our supplier list public. We are working toward total transparency about sourcing and continuing to add to the information that we make available about our suppliers. We are also working with industry partners in piloting the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index, which allows for benchmarking and comparison across suppliers on environmental and social metrics. Ultimately, our aim is to make this information available to customers, so that they will be easily able to track, trace, and benchmark how sustainably their product has been made.

What has been the most significant transformation within your company in the past year?
Almost a year ago, in November 2013, we announced our Fair Living Wage Roadmap. We felt that wage development in the textile industry was not happening fast enough, and that we had a responsibility to take a lead in working with our industry partners, and take the wage issue to the next level.

The roadmap marks a significant shift toward incentivizing businesses to improve wages, instead of using a compliance model. It is also about supporting workers in having their voices heard, and our social dialogue program in Bangladesh is one example of this.

Since garment factories supply many different brands, we cannot work in isolation. We need a collaborative approach to effect change, working with the whole range of stakeholders, including governments, NGOs, suppliers, and other brands and retailers. Our roadmap is our contribution to convening stakeholders and taking a lead through our actions. Over the past year, we have been piloting our Fair Living Wage Method in one factory in Cambodia and two in Bangladesh. When we have the results of the first phase evaluation later this year, we will be looking at what lessons can be learned and how we can scale up from the pilot in our own supply chain. We will also share best practice examples with the rest of the industry to help drive change further and faster.

By transforming our approach and setting out our roadmap, our aim is to inspire change and contribute to transformation in practices across the industry—and ultimately improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers.

Join us at the BSR Conference 2014 to hear H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson and others discuss transparency and transformation in business and sustainability.

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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