H&M Group has unveiled new commitments to diversity and inclusion after suspending employees from its & Other Stories banner who named a product using a racist slur.
The Sweden-based fast-fashion giant’s CEO announced on Wednesday that the company was “deeply sorry” to learn that a purple hat was labeled with a racist slur. She explained that the retailer has launched both internal and external investigations, as well as suspended the “team and managers responsible for this area of business.”
“This is totally unacceptable and should never have happened,” executive chief Helena Helmersson said in a statement. “It is a serious breach of our policies and goes against everything we stand for. We take the use of racially offensive language extremely seriously.”
A photo of the product, which was named with the N-word, was uploaded to an internal system and leaked to the public. It appeared on a July list of all the apparel and accessories to be sold during the brand’s upcoming fall/winter season.
Beyond the suspension, H&M said it has taken steps to improve representation within the company: It shared that the teams in its major markets will publish specific targets, including a timetable and action plan, by the end of 2020. It also plans to “identify diversity gaps” within its headquarters and set goals to increase the diversity of its management and board of directors.
What’s more, the chain said it would create an external advisory council with executives from varied backgrounds “to advise and contribute to H&M’s business direction.” In addition, it is establishing a peer advisory council made up of its existing global employee resource groups, who will work directly with Helmersson, the head of inclusion and diversity plus the company’s management team.
By 2021’s end, H&M intends to release action plans for diversity and inclusion across all markets in which it operates.
“We at H&M Group all have a responsibility to build a business that truly reflects, welcomes and celebrates the diversity of the world we live in,” Helmersson said. “We encourage everyone to continue to speak out against any act of racism, intolerance or hate inside or outside our company.”