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H&M boss remarks show need for responsible lobbying platform research

The CEO of clothing retailer H&M, Karl-Johan Persson, has spoken out about worker wages in Bangladesh.

He is quoted in Bangladesh’s Daily Star as saying that he “met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and suggested an increase in wages and a
yearly wage review for the workers in the textile industry”.

According to the Daily Star (not to be confused with the UK tabloid of the same name!) Persson:

“…urged the government to consider an annual review of the local
minimum wage that takes national inflation and the consumer price index
into consideration”.

Now. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes here. Other brands have been lobbying the government to raise standards and wages. Some large companies have been collaborating on building and fire safety after some horrific recent incidents in Bangladesh factories.

The clothing manufacture business is booming in Bangladesh as China costs rise. But safety standards and wages have remained static, so brands have been taking action, some for almost a decade behind the scenes.

Recently strikes have upped the ante, and may be one of the reasons H&M is rolling out their CEO to speak publicly about these important issues.

This is public leadership with a firm agenda and a pressing need by Persson, the H&M CEO.

More brands now need to support his efforts and book CEO meetings with top officials and speak out publicly.

This raises questions around responsible lobbying platforms across industries in general.

It seems to me, as an independent observer relying on conversations with real experts, rather than being one myself, that there simply are not enough responsible lobbying platforms for CEOs to speak out on.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (revenue transparency) is probably the most high profile semi-success.

The Kimberly Process (diamond supply chain tracking) has become a former partial success and now a mess, in something of a contrast.

These platforms work, it seems, when the number of players is limited to the truly committed.

But then of course, they suffer the exclusion / scale problem. Widening their work risks dodgier entrants, as is the case with Kimberly. (Zimbabwe and Venezuela for example)

Other such platforms at various stages, include the Ethical Trading Initiative in the UK, and specific groups based around issues such as Uzbek Cotton, various ‘climate leaders’ groups, and West African cocoa via the International Cocoa Initiative.There are others out there.

All of these have had limited success. It strikes me that more research into the success and failure factors of such groups is urgently needed. This probably needs to go beyond open-ended academic work too.

We need to know more about how and why these groups can support and catalyse responsible lobbying, as above in the H&M example, and give executives confidence that they can put their CEO in the firing line.

We’ll be looking further into this in Ethical Corporation in the coming months.

I’d value comments on platforms that readers believe show promise and value so far.

 Let’s share what we know. I’d be happy to highlight other initiatives that readers let me know about.

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