On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,134 people and injuring thousands more. Two years later, according to a report, by Human Rights Watch, working conditions and labour rights are unchanged. However, the garment industry is working to burnish its public image on sustainability issues. The recently-released H&M Conscious Action Sustainability Report 2014, discusses “the challenges” in the industry, which they identify as “Clean water, climate change, textile waste and wages and overtime in supplier factories”. But in a press release titled, “H&M’s sustainability promises will not deliver a living wage” (Apr. 9) the Clean Clothes Campaign states: “Despite announcing partnership projects with the ILO, education schemes alongside Swedish trade unions, and fair wage rhetoric aplenty, H&M has so far presented disappointingly few concrete results that show progress towards a living wage. H&M are working hard on gaining a reputation in sustainability, but the results for workers on the ground are yet to be seen”. The Clean Clothes Campaign is an alliance of trade unions and NGOs in 16 European countries.
H&M, along with Target, Gap, and Levi Strauss, has been commended by the Clean by Design program of the National Resource Defense Council for their progress in incorporating environmental performance in their procurement decisions. In April, NRDC also released The Textile Industry Leaps forward with Clean by Design: Less Environmental Impact with Bigger Profits which describes the extent of the pollution in textile mills in China, and highlights the mills which made operational improvements and achieved the most cost savings, chiefly through increased motor and lighting efficiency, process water reuse, and heat recovery from exhaust.