Proposal: Industrial Revolution and Relevant Course Themes Essay

Submitted By soleahm
Words: 1125
Pages: 5

The subject that I have chosen to follow through the course of UNI268H1 is the world’s second largest clothing retailer, the Swedish “fast fashion” giant Hennes & Mauritz, simply known as H&M. Attempting to balance market profits, environmental sustainability and social responsibility in an increasingly globalizing world, H&M provides opportunities for research and study in many of the course topics including trade, labour, governance, development, and environmental issues. H&M is a leading clothing retailer in Canada, and its cheap throwaway clothing provides Canadian consumers the opportunity to stay frugal and fashionable. Yet, these low prices evidently come at a high cost: H&M’s manufacturing practices have come under fire in recent years. News reports of child workers, unfair wages and factory fires have raised questions about workers’ conditions. As a response, H&M has adopted a more “ethical” and socially responsible approach to business, while maintaining profits. However, these attempts, while perhaps well-intentioned, leave much to be desired. One cannot deny that H&M has made more steps towards progressive manufacturing practices than any other fast fashion brand, including raising wages and pledging to improve working conditions at factories. Nevertheless, the nature of the global supply chain limits the actual “good” being accomplished – developing nations are still in a race to the bottom, and Manuel Castells’ notion of “a fourth world of exclusion” seems more and more likely. (Castells, 8) In this situation, what’s a Canadian consumer to do? Should we continue to buy H&M merchandise in an attempt to support a “progressive” fast fashion retailer? Or should we denounce the “race to the bottom” altogether?

H&M Company Code of Conduct. Web. H&M, January 20th, 2014.

Relevant course themes: Trade, Labour, Governance, Environment.

This document outlines H&M’s Code of Conduct for “all suppliers, their subcontractors, and other business partners.” It is a very useful resource for studying H&M’s business concept – the company highlights child labour laws, building and fire safety regulations, workers’ rights and fair wages, and environmental considerations as some of its main concerns. Yet, in recent years, H&M has come under fire for violating all of these issues in various countries across the globe.

Idowu, Samuel; W.L Filho. Global Practices of Corporate Social Responsibility. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2009. Print.

Relevant course themes: Trade, Labour, Environment.

This book examines various practices of corporate social responsibility by large corporations, including H&M. H&M does not own any factories itself, relying instead on subcontractors in countries such as China, Cambodia, and Bangladesh. Although H&M’s code of conduct outlines its key principles, whether or not these rules are actually followed by the subcontractors in developing nations remains to be seen.

Pearson, Ruth; G. Seyfang. “New Hope or False Dawn? Voluntary Codes of Conduct, Labour Regulation and Social Policy in a Globalizing World.” Global Social Policy 1(1) 2001: pp. 48-78. Web. January 21st, 2014.

Relevant course themes: Labour, Development.

This article considers the strengths and weaknesses of corporate codes of conduct, including their potential for restructuring social policy towards excluded groups of workers (e.g. women) in an increasingly globalizing world. Biraj, Andrew. “Clothing Retailers Respond to Star Questions about their Labour Practices.” The Star 24 Oct. 2013. Web. January 20th, 2014.

Relevant course themes: Trade, Labour, Environment, Communications, Development.

In this article, various clothing retailers, including H&M,