His colleague Payal Jain, the sustainability manager for H&M’s global supply chain who started her career as a factory worker in India, said that H&M visited its factories several times per week, and 2,500 audits were made in the country per year.
That may sound like a lot, but it is an average of 10 per factory — in 365 days. Or less than once per month. The company was also criticized by the Clean Clothes campaign last year, which said H&M had not met a 2013 commitment made to ensure suppliers would pay a living wage to 850,000 textile workers by 2018.
(H&M said it had reached at least 600 factories and 930,000 garment workers with its fair living wage strategy, and did not share the Clean Clothes Campaign’s view of how to create change in the textile industry.)
Additionally, some factory owners say that despite support from H&M’s sustainability teams, they experience pressure from the company or from production teams who still want more product at a cheaper price — or they threaten to pull their business and go to even less expensive hubs, like Ethiopia.
Ms. Jain said cost of labor was not a negotiable part of a supplier contract. But if suppliers are paid less, or overtime is required to complete a contract, the likelihood is that shortfall will get passed down the chain.
“Brands like H&M offer training, help union members establish themselves in my factory and guide us on investing in the business, which are all very good and important things,” said Lutful Matin, the manager of Natural Denims, another factory near Dhaka. It employs 6,900 workers to make garments for H&M, Zara, Mango and Esprit.