Our approach to respecting human rights

H&M Group’s ambition is to lead our industry to a more sustainable and responsible future. Our commitment to respecting human rights underpins this ambition and is reflected in our policies and roadmaps, supported by our culture and governance structure.

We conduct due diligence to identify risks to people, and work to prevent and mitigate any harm, as well as to ensure there are channels for people to raise concerns and access remedy. By being transparent with our ambitions and learnings through public reporting and communication we hope to inspire action and drive collaboration.

To operate with respect to human rights is an ongoing journey and we still have a lot to learn, but we know we have the experience, opportunity and determination to make a difference.

Our Commitment

Our corporate commitment to respect human rights is manifested in our Human Rights Policy, which is approved by the Board of Directors.

H&M Group’s commitment reflects those human rights defined in the International Bill of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Additionally, we refer to children’s and women’s rights as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Our approach to human rights due diligence is informed by the UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct. Many years of practical on-the-ground-experience from our production and retail markets helps us work effectively in each unique context.

Governance and integration

Policy integration: Our commitment to operating with respect for international standards is manifested in our corporate-level Human Rights Policy and reflected in operational-level policies and guidelines, which help us act with accountability and fulfill our obligations in practice.

Key operational-level policies include our Sustainability Commitment, which sets out our requirements for suppliers and business partners to respect human rights and ensure good working conditions, our global Social Policies, which are the equivalent for our internal operations, and our Material Ethics policy.

Guidelines to further support our teams and business partners in how to respect human rights in their daily work include our Migrant Worker Guideline to secure fair recruitment of migrant workers, and our Responsible AI Framework, which is applied when developing new AI applications.

Governance and culture:  Responsibility for implementation of our commitment to operate with respect to human rights is delegated to senior operational executives who report to our CEO. The Head of Sustainability and Head of Corporate Governance oversee the overall implementation and report on progress and impact to the Board of Directors and the leadership team on a regular basis. The work to develop reporting and steering to further integrate human-rights management in an effective and meaningful way is ongoing.

One of H&M Group’s core values is “believe in people”; a key aspect of our corporate governance has, and will always be, that we trust our colleagues to make the right decisions. Raising awareness and ensuring that respect for human rights is embedded in our culture and values means providing colleagues with appropriate training and the right tools.

Training and awareness raising: Awareness raising and sense-making of what it means to operate with respect to human rights is key to effective integration. We provide basic human-rights training across our business, tailoring content for different functions and roles. Training includes a basic introduction to human rights, an outline of our responsibilities in line with the UNGPs, and key aspects of effective implementation. In-depth training and workshops are targeted at key staff and cover specific topics such as forced labour and application of remedy logic. A similar approach is being applied to suppliers and business partners.

Human-rights due diligence

We conduct human-rights due diligence across our value chain, adjusted to operational context and risk, business relationships, and the nature of our involvement with an impact. Our process is continuous and develops as we incorporate learnings and input from stakeholders and experts.

Identifying risk to people: Our efforts are focused on our Salient Human Rights Issues. These are the issues which have the most severe negative impact on people across our value chain. They include wages, child labor, forced labor, modern slavery, and rights to water. We regularly review our salient human rights issues together with internal and external stakeholders to ensure their relevance and to define prioritized efforts and engagement.

Special attention is given to vulnerable groups of people that are more exposed to violations, including women, children and migrant workers.

Risk and impact assessment: We conduct human-rights risk assessments across our value chain to identify risk to people, including but not limited to, new markets, suppliers and materials. As a global business, with a retail and production presence in over 80 markets it is not effective nor impactful to apply the same approach everywhere. That’s why we apply a risk-based approach to our due diligence.

We target high-risk regions, functions or processes that require the closest attention. We also seek to extend our reach by focusing on supplier ownership and partnership. This means cascading responsibilities and building leverage via our business partners to capture and address potential and actual human rights issues throughout our supply chain. Read more about our supply-chain management in our Sustainability Disclosure.

Acting on identified risks: Our approach to preventing and mitigating issues is adjusted to operational context and risk, business relationships and the nature of our involvement with an impact. Strategies include labour-monitoring programs across our manufacturing supply chain, training and outreach programs, communication of policies, establishment of grievance channels, capacity-building programs, partnerships, and multi-stakeholder initiatives. We strive to continuously incorporate learnings and invite stakeholders to provide feedback on our efforts.

In many markets where we operate, certain human-rights issues are systemic. Tackling these requires collaboration with other actors and we encourage collective efforts with peers, business partners, governments and non-governmental organisations. Our work on wages is an example of an issue that is systemic and requires action from different actors.

We also engage in public affairs with the aim to strengthen regulatory effectiveness and the role of governments in protecting human rights in countries where we operate.

Stakeholder engagement: Throughout the process, we strive to engage with rights holders (colleagues, workers in our supply chain, customers, and communities) or their relevant representatives such as unions or NGOs, to receive valuable input. We continuously invite stakeholders to provide feedback on our efforts so we can further improve our strategies and programmes.

For systemic issues or those further upstream in our supply chain, where our influence is limited, we join forces with a broader range of stakeholders such as our peers, suppliers and business partners, NGOs and expert organisations to collaboratively address and improve the sustainability of our industry.

Read more about our stakeholder engagment and collaborations in our Sustainability Report and under Stakeholder Engagement.

Reporting and communication: Reporting on risks and outcomes is done both to inform decision-making and to evaluate and adjust our approach for effectiveness. Human-rights reporting is one aspect of our corporate governance, where we work to establish meaningful reporting that drives positive outcomes for people and connects with business value.

We communicate and report on progress and challenges through various channels, including our annual Sustainability Report. Over the years we have built strong business relationships with our manufacturing suppliers and were one of the first brands to make our supplier list public in 2013.

We strongly believe transparency and partnership increase accountability and drive progress. Over the years our efforts to integrate human-rights management and eradicate modern slavery from our supply chains have been recognised by the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark and the Know the Chain benchmark.

Grievance mechanisms and incident management

Despite the best intentions and efforts, incidents and grievances will occur across our value chain.  We are committed to building a culture of trust and openness, and to ensuring effective grievance mechanisms are in place for people to raise issues and access remedy.

These mechanisms are an important aspect of our ongoing human-rights due diligence and our strategic focus on promoting workers’ voices and well-functioning industrial relations in our markets. We believe the most effective way to ensure respect for human rights and good working conditions is to enable and empower individuals to speak up.

Grievance mechanisms. Our ambition is for grievances to be managed as close to the issue as possible. We do not tolerate retaliation against anyone who, in good faith, reports a grievance or participates in the investigation of a grievance in our own operations or across our supply chain.

Our internal Grievance Policy aims to ensure that all employees within H&M Group have a channel for putting forward grievances as well as access to an efficient procedure for the handling of violations or grievances related to our social policies. This includes providing a supportive and open atmosphere where employees feel comfortable bringing up issues directly with their managers or peers, as well as providing a company-level channel where colleagues can escalate issues. Similarly our corporate Speak-up! channel allows eligible stakeholders to raise grievances or concerns related to human rights impacts connected to activities across our full value chain. 

Our requirements on our suppliers and business partners include the establishment of operational-level grievance mechanisms. We also recognise the importance of human-rights defenders, including union representatives, in bringing attention to issues. We expect our suppliers and business partners to not hinder the work of human-rights defenders or retaliate against anyone who comes forward with an issue.

For our manufacturing supply chain, we follow up on the presence of effective operational-level grievance channels via our monitoring programs. One of the strategic focus areas within our social sustainability work is to strengthen workers’ voices. We encourage and support the establishment of democratically elected worker representatives, and we work with our suppliers and unions to support good industrial relations.

In key production markets, and as part of our framework agreement with global union federation IndustriALL and IF Metall, we have established National Monitoring Committees (NMC) in collaboration with local union representatives to, amongst other things, receive grievances and support in resolving issues that have been escalated.

Incident management. For situations that impact on human rights we apply a systematic approach to analysing each case and supporting its resolution, as well as to informing our involvement in providing remedy using the UNGPs enabling remedy framework. We recognise our responsibility to provide for remedy when impacts are connected to our activities, as well as our role in exercising influence through our business relationships and building leverage with others for issues further up our supply chains where we don’t have direct business relationships. This specific analysis of human-rights impacts is integrated into our existing routine for handling cases and incidents, and we work to raise awareness among colleagues involved in grievance and incident management.

Identified human-rights incidents at supplier factories are handled in line with our incident-management processes, including issuing Letters of Concern in response to severe non-compliances with our Sustainability Commitment. To prevent re-occurrence, we have ongoing monitoring programs in place to assess progress, incentivise suppliers that share our ambition for responsible and sustainable business practices through more business, and encourage engagement in various programs at local and global levels.

Related documents

We publish our Sustainability Disclosure annually. In this document, we set out our goals and the progress we’ve made in the previous year. Find the latest version here. More up to date information can be included on this page.