After Xinjiang Backlash, H&M Vows to Regain Trust of China Customers

H&M has vowed to rebuild its relationship with customers in China after facing backlash over its stance against using cotton sourced from the Xinjiang region due to alleged forced labor issues.

In a statement today, the Swedish fast-fashion giant announced that it was “building forward-looking strategies and actively working on next steps” regarding material sourcing in China and other foreign countries. It shared that it has maintained a presence in the Chinese market — its top apparel supplier and fourth largest market in terms of sales — for more than three decades.

“We are dedicated to regaining the trust and confidence of our customers, colleagues and business partners in China,” the company wrote. “By working together with stakeholders and partners, we believe we can take steps in our joint efforts to develop the fashion industry, as well as serve our customers and act in a respectful way.”

H&M became the first fashion company to come under fire for its position on Xinjiang when a statement, which was published a year ago, resurfaced on Chinese social media websites last week. According to the statement, the chain would not source cotton from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region following reports that hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims were being subjected to arduous forced labor.

Subsequently, last week, searches for “H&M” and “HM” revealed no results on Alibaba’s Tmall, JD.com and Pinduoduo, indicating that the brand was blocked from such platforms. Weibo users called for a boycott of H&M, while celebrities Huang Xuan and Song Qian had both announced their intentions to sever ties with the brand.

What’s more, China’s Baidu Maps platform and Alibaba’s map service appeared to have removed the locations of H&M’s more than 400 stores in China. The fallout has also impacted major global brands like Nike and Adidas, as well as New Balance, Burberry, Converse, Uniqlo and Calvin Klein.

“We are working together with our colleagues in China to do everything we can to manage the current challenges and find a way forward,” H&M added in the statement. “China is a very important market to us and our long-term commitment to the country remains strong.”

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