Fashion retailer H&M has joined the Fair Wage Network initiative as part of its efforts to promote fair wages for workers across its global supply chain.

As a first step, wage structures at more than 200 key suppliers' factories in China, India, Cambodia and Bangladesh - representing more than half of the entire production for H&M - will be independently assessed by the Fair Labour Association (FLA).

"Wages in our supply chain are a key focus in our sustainability work. Wage structures however are often complex and so are global supply chains," says Helena Helmersson, head of CSR at H&M.

"The Fair Wage Network can support us with the necessary knowledge to further promote fair wages for workers at our supplier factories and through a strong network hopefully throughout the entire industry. We encourage other companies to join and work together on this challenge."

H&M's code of conduct requires suppliers to pay their employees at least the wages they are entitled to, and they are closely monitored on this through a comprehensive audit programme.

But as Auret van Heerden, co-chair of the Fair Wage Network and president and CEO of the Fair Labour Association (FLA), points out: "The issue of wages has been a real challenge for the CSR movement."

"H&M has done a tremendous job to collect the necessary wage data from their suppliers already. We are very happy to be working with them to further analyse wage structures in their global supply chain and to develop strategies for further improvements."

The the Fair Wage Network brings together fashion brands, garment producers, NGOs, worker representatives and researchers around the world.

Its approach to define and assess a fair wage is based on 12 "key dimensions" that take into consideration acceptable living standards, inflation, company profits, work intensity and worker involvement in wage adjustment processes.

"The Fair Wage assessment is an essential step to identify wage practices among suppliers, and will provide H&M with remedial elements to address the issues," adds Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead, co-chair of the Fair Wage Network.

"Participation in the Fair Wage Network will also allow H&M to seek common solutions with other brands and CSR actors."