Workers sort clothes at a garment factory near the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh. Picture: REUTERS/ANDREW BIRAJ
Workers sort clothes at a garment factory near the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh. Picture: REUTERS/ANDREW BIRAJ

London — Fashion brand H&M has become the first major retailer to list individual supplier details for each garment on its website to increase transparency in an industry with high risks of slavery and labour abuses.

The Sweden-based multinational’s move was hailed by workers rights groups who said it is a step forward, but added that the data may not be particularly meaningful to shoppers without additional information to put it into context.

“This is innovative and good,” Anna Bryher advocacy director at Britain’s Labour Behind the Label, which campaigns for garment workers’ rights, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Maybe H&M need to think a bit more about how to make that information live and useful to consumers — adding information, for example, about wages paid at suppliers and comparing that to the living-wage benchmarks or their promises on living wages.”

A growing number of big brands, from sportswear giant Adidas to fashion retailer ASOS, are sharing information about their complex supply chains amid mounting regulatory and consumer pressure on companies to ensure their products are slavery-free. However H&M is the first major fashion chain to list supplier details for each individual garment.

Online shoppers can see where clothing was made, including the production country, supplier and factory names and addresses, as well as the number of factory workers. The brand’s app can be used to access the same data for clothing in stores by scanning an item’s label.

Customers can also see information about the material used in clothing, although H&M does not list specific sourcing details for raw materials.

“We want to show the world that this is possible,” Isak Roth, the head of sustainability at H&M, said in a statement. “By being open and transparent about where our products are made we hope to set the bar for our industry and encourage customers to make more sustainable choices.”

This week marks six years since Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza factory collapsed in a disaster that killed about 1,100 people and increased awareness of the risks faced by many garment workers.

A British parliamentary report last year found the country’s fashion industry was exploitative and unsustainable, urging big brands to do more to tackle labour abuse and waste.

Thomson Reuters Foundation