H&M is currently investigating 20 alleged cases of labour abuse at clothing manufacturing facilities in Myanmar, which serve as suppliers for the global fashion retailer, according to news publication Reuters.

This investigation follows one of its leading competitors, Inditex, which owns fashion brand Zara, announcing its intention to gradually stop sourcing products from the country.

Reuters explains a UK-based human rights advocacy organisation has documented as many as 156 instances of reported worker abuse within the nation’s garment production facilities between February 2022 and 2023, representing a significant rise from the 56 cases recorded in the preceding year.

In a statement sent to Just Style H&M said: “All the cases raised in the report by BHRRC [Business & Human Rights Resource Centre report] are being followed-up and where needed remediated through our local team on the ground and in close cooperation with relevant stakeholders.”

Reuters claims BHRRC is to release a report on 16 August which highlights that wage reduction and wage theft were repeatedly reported, followed by unfair dismissal, inhumane work rates and forced overtime.

H&M’s statement adds: “We are deeply concerned by the latest developments in Myanmar, and we see increased challenges to conduct our operations according to our standards and requirements.

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“We are monitoring the current situation very closely and evaluating it in close dialogue with relevant local and international stakeholders.”

In July, Myanmar was identified as one of the “worst countries for working people” according to the 2022 ITUC Global Rights Index, alongside 113 other countries that exclude workers from their right to establish or join a trade union.

H&M faced criticism in May from IndustriALL Global Union for continuing to source from Myanmar despite the country’s humanitarian crisis brought on by the military coup in 2021.

H&M responded to the claims made by IndustriALL representatives at the time by explaining it had a strong local team and was working with the EU-funded MADE in Myanmar project, however this programme was later condemned by the global union.