With the heat on retailer H&M subsiding, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says it is taking a firm stance on the business sector and human rights abuse. The commission voiced its disappointment at the recent H&M ad campaign that featured a black boy modelling a hoodie with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle” printed on it. While H&M has publicly apologized for the ad and encouraged constructive input from members of the public, the commission will now be investigating how businesses conduct themselves and adhere to the values enshrined within the South African Constitution. This follows a meeting on Friday, between the retailer and the SAHRC, in which the company indicated that it will be developing a plan to ensure that staff members are educated about issues of race and diversity.
SAHRC CEO, Tseliso Thipanyane, explains that while the SAHRC has tabled its concerns, H&M has apologised for the campaign. However, the commission requires more action than an apology.
He says given the history of South Africa, an apology for the “coolest monkey in the jungle” ad is “not enough”; operating within its mandate in both the private and business sector, the SAHRC now seeks adequate redress.
“We are looking at the plan which they are proposing, which they will give to us this week, to see whether the measures they have planned to attack these issues and influencing global operations will be in line with their expectations.”
In terms of concerns that the retailer violated human rights, Thipanyane says that the commission will be more closely addressing issues relating to the business sector.
Since all companies are expected to uphold the Bill of Rights, the commission will be addressing the manner in which businesses implement its human rights obligations.
“This has actually helped us to engage a bit more in this area, which we have not really been doing that well over the years.”
In a statement released to the public, H&M apologized for the ad campaign, saying it “got things wrong”.
Meanwhile, the SAHRC says it is investigating the recent announcement by the National Funeral Practitioners Association of South Africa (NAFUPA-SA) that non-black owned funeral parlours will be allowed to operate within black townships, this an apparent move to redress Apartheid policies.