Where are H M clothes made
Why the H&M T-shirt is so cheap
The "world shirt" is an inconspicuous item of clothing: it is white, has a small round collar and is almost certainly in the closet of quite a few people: the standard T-shirt from the Swedish textile chain H&M. The piece is also a cosmopolitan. The cotton for this is grown in the United States, it is sewn in Bangladesh and in the end it is on the shelves in Hamburg as well as in Vienna and Stockholm. The price in Germany and Austria: 4.95 euros. So it's pretty cheap. But not only that. H&M also insists that the company does not care about the conditions under which "the flag" is produced. The sustainability report has more than 80 pages, and the homepage has promising snacks of what is important: Against child labor, exploitation and environmental degradation - we are the good guys, is the message.
Zeit author Wolfgang Uchatius went in search of the secret of the cheap garment in a report. The questions that Uchatius asked himself: H&M stands up against exploitation. And yet the group sells clothes for a few euros. How can that be?
Travel halfway around the world
Uchatius embarked on a journey that took him around half the globe. Guided by the basic information that a management consultant who specialized in the textile industry gave him after a long search. At H&M itself, Uchatius said he was welcomed benevolently. What was told to him in the end, despite the somehow permissive information policy of the Swedes, left the specific path of the Leiberl strangely in the dark, said Uchatius in an interview with derStandard.at: "On the one hand, the group is very open. I visited the German headquarters, for example. It's here in Hamburg from our editorial building just around the corner. I also had an appointment at the company's headquarters in Stockholm, where I was able to talk to the chief designer it not there. " As I said: H&M also publishes a lot of information on the subject of sustainability, child labor and environmental degradation both on its homepage and in the sustainability report and is committed to certain standards. "But if you then want specific information about where production takes place, for example, then they say that there is no opinion on this for reasons of competition." However, according to Uchatius, it then turned out that the competitors within the industry hardly have any secrets: "Most of them know each other exactly where production is taking place and sometimes even use the same factory.
The American taxpayer pays
Anyone who thinks that the reporter's journey on the trail of a cheap T-shirt leads from cheap production country to cheap production country is wrong. Because Uchatius - as he explains in the derStandard.at conversation - came across the amazing fact during his research that the American citizen makes a contribution to all of our H&M T-shirts: "I actually expected that the cotton would already be out But no: the cotton comes from the richest country in the world. The Americans are the largest cotton exporter in the world. Not because they have particularly good machines or are particularly hardworking, but because the American state subsidizes them So one of the secrets of the cheap t-shirt is the fact that the American taxpayer subsidizes it. " In the past few years, 40 cents were incurred for the 400 grams required for an H&M shirt, but the price has now risen significantly.
From North Texas to Hamburg
The other stations in the production chain after the cotton field in North Texas led the author to the textile factory in Bangladesh via the container port in Malaysia to the H&M branch in Hamburg. The stylish shop in Hamburg naturally has little in common with the production facilities in Bangladesh. The requirements for the seamstresses in their rather inhospitable place of work (mold on the walls, 250 T-shirts per hour) are strict. H&M does not have its own factories, but orders where it is cheapest. In 2002, according to the author, he was already in the area for the textile industry. Not much has improved since then. What consumers in the countries known for their social standards from Sweden to Germany to Austria notice: At H&M, you commit yourself to paying the minimum wage applicable in the respective production country.
One euro a day
Is that a good thing? Somehow yes, because the standard of living of the employees will probably actually increase in the long term. Often the wage of 1.18 euros per day including all overtime already allows improvements in the situation of some textile workers, even if it is only those that have the opportunity to earn money, according to Uchatius. Overall, however, and the critical consumer knows that by now, the situation looks rather dreary for most: "In Bangladesh, for example, this minimum wage is so low that you can hardly make a living from it." One of H & M's arguments is that factory operators cannot be told to pay their workers higher wages. Because these factories always work for several clients at the same time, this would mean that the seamstress who produces for H&M would get more money than the worker at the sewing machine next to it, who might be working for C&A. Uchatius: "In fact, this is difficult to imagine. But there is a very simple way out: H&M would only have to set up its own factories that belong to the company itself. Then the company could easily pay higher wages. If it really means things." Such a T-shirt from Bangladesh is said to cost its customers 1.35 euros.
The economies of scale and why the consumer plays along
The transport is still between the cultivation and production sites. Six cents should be incurred for each T-shirt that is shipped in a container from Bangladesh to Germany. And the transport companies usually also make their profit. When the T-shirt arrives in Germany, H&M will have paid a little more than 1.40 euros for raw materials, production and transport. For the Swedes, at the end of the day there is a sum of 50 cents (not confirmed by the company) per T-shirt: Why? Also because there are so many of them. In other words, because the white T-shirts go away like hot cakes and are met with a lot of approval from consumers. Economists call this "economies of scale". Nothing new, but it is still remarkable that a company can still make a profit at a price of less than five euros for a T-shirt, says the economist Uchatius: "On the one hand, H&M is listed on the stock exchange and not a charitable company Of course it is clear that they want to make a profit. On the other hand, if you understand that cotton is grown and harvested in the United States, the raw material then has to be processed into yarn, traveled halfway around the world and then, for example, to factories in Bangladesh to be made into a T-shirt, which then travels halfway around the world ... Yes, in this respect I was very surprised that the company still earns around 50 cents per T-shirt. "
The price is by no means set in stone. Rising raw material prices and labor costs are eating away at margins. In the end, it will probably remain unchanged in the foreseeable future, because the 4.95 euros are, so to speak, a magical limit for the consumer. Unless he uses a t-shirt that is actually sustainably produced, says Uchatius. "If you look at the price for such a product, it is of course many times higher at 20 to 30 euros per item. On the other hand, if you look into your own wardrobe, almost everyone will probably find that they can get by with fewer pieces would." What personal conclusion he drew from the story is formulated by the author as follows: "Probably that nowadays political decisions are no longer made in the voting booth, but every time you pull out your wallet. With every purchase you can either support exploitation or finance fair wages. And that is actually a good thing. But that is where the work begins. Because that assumes that you are informed. " (Regina Bruckner, derStandard.at, January 27, 2011)
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