Of all the high street retailers, H&M has, at least publicly, appeared the most actively dedicated to sustainability, and soon that may come at a financial cost to shoppers.
For instance, it has an “eco-friendly” Conscious Collection, a recycling program and has been dedicated to using organic cotton. Recently, and perhaps more importantly, it has become more transparent about its manufacturing practices, disclosing the names of its supplier factories in its latest sustainability report.
Now, it’s going a step further by trying to improve conditions for workers in those factories — important, given the recent barrage of deadly factory fires in Bangladesh. Last month, it released a roadmap outlining how it will pay all of its garment workers a living wage. And, though it wasn’t mentioned in H&M’s roadmap, part of that plan may involve raising prices. Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability at H&M, told AFP Monday that price increases “might be a possibility” in the long term.
A rep for H&M told us Wednesday: “We don’t think that this strategy will result in a price increase for our customers. It is an investment in our customer offering and will benefit H&M long term. It is important to remember that wages are only one of several factors that influence the sourcing costs and the prices in our stores. We also believe that this will lead to more stable production markets, with better efficiency and productivity. Long term this will be profitable for both us and our suppliers.”
When H&M co-hosted a panel discussion on sustainability in fashion this April, the consensus was that companies — H&M included — were generally going to put profit above sustainability. That’s just how business works. So it makes sense that H&M might have to raise its prices — but are shoppers ready and willing to pay more, even if they understand why?