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UN labour agency partners with retailer H&M on social sustainability

The United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) today announced a unique partnership with retail giant H&M to promote sustainable global supply chains in the garment industry.

“Issues in the garment industry are systemic and require action that helps develop effective industrial relations and promote respect of international labour standards,” said Guy Ryder, Director-General of ILO, stressing that “there is therefore an urgent need to establish strategic and comprehensive collaborations with companies that have experience in these fields, such as H&M.”

The new partnership will focus on industrial relations and wages, training and skills development for workers at H&M source factories, as well as strengthening employers’ and workers’ organizations in the global garment industry.

“ILO, with its unique tripartite composition, is the perfect partner for addressing issues such as wages and training and skills development in the textile industry,” said Karl-Johan Persson, CEO at H&M.

He also considered this cooperation as a great opportunity to further ramp up their work as the foundation of well-functioning industrial relations on all H&M’s strategic production markets.

Under the new agreement, the more comprehensive and strategic partnership will promote a wide range of activities in training and skills development at the global, national and enterprise level in a larger number of countries, until the end of 2018.

Capacity building for the social partners and skills development project between ILO and H&M was first launched in 2013 in Bangladesh, aiming to improve the quality of work and productivity in factories, as well as enabling workers to record and have their skills formally recognised.

Further, not only is the partnership intended to establish a positive and innovative model for other brands, but it also creates a global alliance to promote the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda in the supply chain of the global garment industry.

The cooperation between the ILO and H&M dates back to 2001, when H&M joined the agency’s Better Factories programme in Cambodia. In 2013, the cooperation was expanded to specifically address industrial relations and wages in the country, including actions at the governance level.

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