Should Wateraid be working with H&M?

H&M announce another partnership with global poverty charity, Wateraid. Weeks earlier garment workers for the company were striking over poor pay.

It’s cute. It’s very cute. But is H&M’s new Hawaiian themed collection ethical?

When you buy it 25% goes to Wateraid, a very worthwhile charity that supports some of the poorest people in the world by providing sanitation and safe water. Indeed the partnership, which has been going since 2002, has raised over £2.2 million.

However, over in Cambodia, garment workers in factories that supply goods for companies, including H&M, are striking overpay. They claim they can’t earn a basic living wage and are forced into poverty. The very thing Wateraid are trying to eliminate.

Of course, charities need to generate income, and one of the ways is to partner with corporates. But who is riding who in this situation? H&M will have certainly had more than £2.2 million worth of PR out of the deal, yet have remained fairly inactive on the issue of human rights (most of the improvements they’ve made have been environmental).

There isn’t anything wrong with corporate partnership per se. However considering the issues Wateraid deal with, and the very recent protests, there’s maybe a better choice of partners. People in the developing world may not need their help so much if H&M and others started taking a bit more responsibility towards workers in their supply chain. It’s about solving the root cause of the issue, rather than the effects.

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