Fashion retailer H&M’s H&M Conscious Foundation is to give SEK180m (US$28m) to three global development programmes covering education, clean water and the empowerment of women.

The Swedish company said the three programmes would begin this month, with the funding set to last for the next three years.

The education programme, which will be driven by UNICEF, is aimed at helping 73,600 children from the most vulnerable groups to attend pre-school by 2017.

Another tranche of funding will go to WaterAid to help give 250,000 schoolchildren access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene over the same timescale.

And the third programme, implemented by Care, will see 100,000 women from developing countries given access to tools, knowledge, skills or seed capital, enabling them to start or expand small enterprises.

“I congratulate the H&M Conscious Foundation for choosing to support programmes in three areas that are critical to sustainable development,” said Prof Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special advisor to the UN Secretary-General on millennium development goals.

“The donation can contribute to big breakthroughs in each area.”