An anti-racism workshop will be held with H&M to “develop a deeper understanding” of the issues its controversial hoodie provoked, the company said on Friday.
“After consultation with several NGOs, talking to our staff, listening to people affected by the issue, we have decided to do more to focus on our commitment to equality. We want to make a positive contribution to eradicate racism, both in South Africa and around the world,” the company said in a statement.
Interventions include the workshop, hosted by the Swedish embassy and the Anti-Racism Network of SA, the creation of a position for a local head of sustainability and transformation, training for H&M headquarter management teams and local employees on diversity, and collaboration with “local black agencies” and the company’s Sweden-based marketing management team to “develop a deeper appreciation of socially-responsible marketing”.
“H&M has started assessment of South Africa as a sourcing market for the H&M Group. We aim to identify sourcing opportunities that could fit our business model and establish long-lasting business relationships with local partners. Potentially, this could lead to local sourcing for products offered or utilised in our H&M stores,” the company said.
“We are also investigating potential collaborations with local South African designers.
“We will continue to create employment in South Africa. H&M has plans to open six new stores this year creating 300 new jobs, with further expansion plans in the years to follow.”
The retailer caused outrage after it showed a black child in a sweatshirt with the words “Coolest monkey in the jungle” printed on it.
H&M has since apologised and removed the image and the sweatshirt from its stores, saying it was “investigating internally to ensure this can’t ever happen again”.
The company said the hoodie was not available in South African stores, but online outside SA.
“The H&M Group has appointed a global transformation lead reporting directly to the CEO to fix the structural problems that resulted in the hoodie being produced. Global programmes will be developed, building on what the company has already done to improve diversity and inclusiveness,” the statement read.
H&M country manager Pär Darj confirmed all its stores were open.
“The security of our employees and our customers is a priority for H&M, particularly after the disruptions in some of our stores this week. We have improved security to ensure safety in our stores.”
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Friday met with H&M representatives to discuss the advertisement.
“The commission conveyed to H&M the hurtful consequences of their campaign, which have struck a nerve in South Africa. The commission further stated that in the context of South Africa, words such as ‘baboon’ and ‘monkey’ are not neutral terms, and were used to demean the fundamental humanity of black people; and that this association was used to rationalise the construction of a race-based caste system, which positioned certain races as superior to others,” the SAHRC said in a statement.
H&M has agreed to provide the SAHRC with a copy of its plan to address the “issues the offensive campaign [have] raised” by Friday January 26, for the SAHRC’s input before finalisation.
Attempts by the commission to engage the Economic Freedom Fighters were unsuccessful, it said.[Source: News24]