Karl-Johan Persson, CEO at H&M, speaking at the BSR Conference

Karl-Johan Persson, CEO at H&M, speaking at the BSR Conference

Fast fashion retailer H&M says a year-long pilot into the provision of a fair living wage at three of its supplier factories has yielded "some positive indications" as it prepares to evaluate the first phase of results.

Speaking at the BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) Conference in New York last week, H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson noted: "At H&M we want to be more than a spectator of the global developments. We have a responsibility to use our size and influence to do what we can."

One example of this is the H&M fair living wage strategy, launched last year at three model factories in Cambodia and Bangladesh with the goal of "aiming for suppliers in production countries to pay a wage that covers the workers' needs."

The evaluation is due to start this winter, Persson said, adding "there are already some positive indications."

He continued: "We will be looking at what lessons can be learned and how we can scale up from the pilot in our own supply chain. We will also share best practice examples with the rest of the industry to help drive change further and faster."

H&M last year set out plans to pay a fair living wage to some 850,000 workers in its clothing supply chain by 2018. The roadmap marks a significant shift toward incentivising businesses to improve wages, instead of using a compliance model.

The retailer has repeatedly said that while it is "prepared to pay prices enabling suppliers to pay a fair living wage," paying a fair living wage won't necessarily means its ticket prices rise.

"It is a collaboration between H&M and our suppliers. We believe that our purchasing practices will lead to better efficiency and productivity. Long term this will be beneficial for both us and our suppliers."

The H&M fair living wage strategy has been drawn up in close co-operation with international trade unions, textile suppliers, the ILO and non-profit organisations.

Persson also used the conference to call for change in how fashion is made and consumed, including increasing transparency through consumer labelling, making it possible for the customer to compare environmental and social sustainability of products and brands.