Days after H&M came under fire in China over its decision to stop sourcing cotton from Xinjiang due to forced labour concerns, the Swedish fashion chain said that it wanted to “regain the trust” of customers in the country. In a statement on March 31, the company stressed the importance of the Chinese market and said that it was working on strategies for material sourcing. While calling China “a very important market”, the firm said that they are doing everything they can to “manage the current challenges and find a way forward”.
H&M said, “China is a very important market to us and our long-term commitment to the country remains strong”.
“We are dedicated to regaining the trust and confidence of our customers, colleagues, and business partners in China,” the company added.
Further, H&M said that it wanted to be a responsible buyer in China and elsewhere, and are now building “forward-looking strategies” and “actively working” on the next steps with regards to material sourcing. It said that by working together with stakeholders and partners, the firm believes that they can take steps in joint efforts to develop the fashion industry, as well as serve customers and act in a respectful way. The Swedish company did not make any explicit reference to cotton, Xinjiang or forced labour, but they said that the firm wants to continue contributing to driving progress in the country.
Back in 2020, H&M had announced its decision to not source cotton from the region over concerns about forced labour. Other multinational clothing companies, including Nike, Adidas, had also released similar statements last year. However, earlier this month, Xinjiang government spokesman Xu Guixiang said that the companies should realise that wielding sanctions against Xinjiang would only hurt the businesses themselves.
The fashion brands have been under fire and Chinese celebrities and tech firms also pulled partnerships with western companies and erased them from Chinese shopping apps. According to New York Times, Chinese landlords even shuttered stores and called for a boycott endorsed by President Xi Jinping. Caught between calls for patriotism among Chinese consumers and campaigns for conscientious sourcing of cotton in the West, some other companies, including Zara, quietly removed statements on forced labour from their websites.