An investigation has been launched into fast-fashion giant H&M following a media report that accused employees in Swedish stores of racial discrimination.
Swedish daily Aftonbladet published footage that appeared to show an H&M sales associate discriminating against a customer on the basis of race. Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman, a government agency that aims to combat "discrimination on grounds of sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnic origin, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age," has confirmed it is looking into the piece.
The publication used hidden camera footage to show that customers who tried to return products to H&M were treated differently, depending on their ethnicity. In one instance, a woman from a foreign background was denied an exchange of purchased items without a receipt, while a Swedish-born undercover reporter was allowed to do so. It is H&M policy to allow an exchange of items without a receipt so long as it is in stock.
Aftonbladet said it spoke to a dozen former and current H&M employees who confirmed instances where ethnic customers ran into issues when trying to exchange goods. An unidentified employee claimed there is a culture of racism within its Swedish stores.
H&M has since confirmed it has launched an investigation. "It is a matter of course that all customers be treated equally and we take [these] accusations very seriously," read a company statement. The brand will reveal its internal findings by December 22.
Earlier this year, H&M brand & Other Stories suspended several employees who used a racial slur to describe one of its products. In 2018, it issued an apology after releasing an advert that featured a Black child in a green hoodie with the logo “coolest monkey in the jungle."
This is a developing story, more to follow.