Swedish banks fail to fully act for H&M's underpaid textile workers

27 January 2022

Swedish banks are some of H&M’s largest shareholders yet they are still not taking enough action to ensure the company pays the textile workers a living wage. During the pandemic wages have further deteriorated. This is revealed by a follow-up report by Fair Finance Guide in Sweden and its partner Fair Action.

Photo: Kristof Vadino / Clean Clothes Campaign

Despite the fact that it has been eight years since H&M launched its strategy for textile workers to earn a living wage, little has happened on the factory floor. A new report shows that Swedish banks place far too low demands on H&M to meet the target, despite the fact that they invest close to SEK 22 billion in the company.

All seven banks currently have a dialogue with H&M on the issue, but no one has set clear and time-bound targets for the company. Only Nordea and Skandia report publicly on the results of the advocacy process.

"The banks must set clearer requirements and increase the pressure on H&M if it is to really lead to higher wages for the workers. Today, the wages are going in the wrong direction", says Jakob König, Project Manager for Fair Finance Guide in Sweden.

Improvements after protests from bank clients

The review is a follow-up to the report Broke in Bangladesh from 2019 and shows that the banks have increased their commitment to the issue of living wages. Today, all seven banks have a dialogue with the clothing giant about living wages, compared with only three banks in 2019. Nordea has the best advocacy work with H&M, which meets 64 percent of the criteria in the review, followed by Skandia, which meets 50 percent. Nordea and Swedbank have also introduced living wage requirements in their investment guidelines.

"It is promising that the banks have listened to the protests, it shows that many raised voices can lead to change. But we must continue to protest because the problem is not yet solved", says Jakob König.

Affects hundreds of thousands of people

H&M is the world's second largest fashion company and a total of 1.6 million people work in the company's supplier factories, of which over half a million are in Bangladesh.

"A seamstress who sews clothes for H&M in India or Bangladesh today needs to earn 70 percent more to be able to manage on her salary. During the pandemic, wages have even been reduced. That is completely unacceptable. Many people now find it difficult to pay for food and medicine if they become ill", says Maria Sjödin, Policy Advisor at Fair Action.


Read the full report (in English) Put your money where your mouth is


Scoring of the banks’ engagement with H&M on living wages (max 100%)