There are certain stores I don’t shop at on principle, and I am adding H&M to the list. It’s unfortunate because as far as I can tell, H&M does well when it comes to upholding workers’ rights.
The company openly publicizes that it supports workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. In Canada, UFCW Local 500 recently applied to represent workers at H&M in Joliette, Quebec, making it the second H&M in Canada to become unionized. UFCW International also represents H&M workers at 16 stores in the New York City area. Thousands of H&M workers are also unionized at H&M locations across Europe.
But much like American Apparel – another clothing chain I have written about, H&M corporate social responsibility stops short when it comes to depictions of women in company advertising.
H&M is currently under fire for using computer-generated human figures to sell swimsuits on their website. I refer to them as robo-models. The body is designed on a computer, and then to make it look real a model’s head is edited on, skin colour and hair are also changed.
Yes, in a world where digital image manipulations are already prevalent in advertising, where women strive to meet impossibly high beauty standards, and where we have an entire generation of young girls dealing with serious self-esteem issues as a result, H&M has decided to push the envelope even further by promoting a body so perfect it isn’t even human.
In my opinion, this advertising is completely irresponsible – and I’m not alone on this. H&M has been getting slammed in all the papers and a national advertising watchdog was quick to denounce the company for “creating unrealistic physical ideals”. They demanded the company “find someone with both body and face that can sell their bikinis.”
H&M carries clothes for all ages and it makes me cringe to think of a young girl looking at their website, aspiring to look like one of their robo-models.
It’s past time for companies to take some responsibility for the messages they are sending with their advertising. Until H&M recognizes this, I’m taking my business elsewhere.