NEW DELHI, March 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Swedish
fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) pledged on Wednesday to
encourage its supplier factories across the world to pay workers
through mobile money and other digital methods to ensure
transparency, curb exploitation and empower women.
The move by the global clothing brand comes after it became
the first global fashion brand to join The Better Than Cash
Alliance - a United Nations initiative aimed at promoting
governments and companies to move to a digital economy.
"Digital payments are an efficient and scalable way to
improve the lives of the employees of our suppliers," Gustav
Loven, social sustainability manager at H&M group, said in a
"They offer a faster, safer and more transparent way to
receive their salary, increase financial inclusion and support
women's economic independence," he said.
Around 65 percent of garment workers employed along H&M
group's supply chain are women, many with limited access to
A digital payment system would also benefit garment factory
owners, added Loven, as it would cut costs, increase security
and provide more accurate wage data for employers.
The fashion industry has come under pressure to improve
factory conditions and workers' rights after 1,136 workers died
in the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh four
Many big brands, including H&M, have been criticised for
failing to check conditions of workers in their supply chains --
from poor health and safety standards and long working hours to
low pay and bans on forming trade unions.
In May last year, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) found
workers stitching clothes for H&M in factories in Delhi and
Phnom Penh faced low wages, fixed-term contracts, forced
overtime and loss of job if pregnant.
The company said at the time it was working to improve
workers conditions in supplier factories after the AFWA, a
coalition of trade unions and labour rights groups, accused it
of failing on its commitments to clean up its supply chain.
H&M - which sources from factories in 25 countries and
indirectly employs 1.6 million workers - said a digital payment
system would boost financial inclusion by ensuring workers -
especially women - had bank accounts.
Access to a bank account is key to women's economic
empowerment as it provides a safe place to save money and opens
up a channel to credit which can be used for investing in
education, property or in a business, gender experts say.
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Astrid
Zweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)