H&M, Rana Plaza and Beyond: Fast Fashion under the Microscope

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: June 20, 2023
Length: 30 pages
Product ID#: 9-423-570

Core Disciplines: Ethics, Operations Management/Supply Chain, Social Impact, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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This case is set in August 2021, eight years after the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, which remains the deadliest fashion-garment incident to date. The case’s central issue: What is the most effective way for the major fashion retailer H&M to ensure safety for workers within its supply chain? This is explored from the point of view of H&M’s fictional head of sustainability, Kristina Nilsson.

Questions that Nilsson must address include: Should H&M re-sign the existing International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry (“International Accord”), an about-to-expire, multi-company pact to ensure factory safety? What are alternatives to the International Accord? What internal and external factors are at play that must be considered? How can Nilsson and other executives prove that H&M is a leader in social and environmental issues?

This case study is an educational tool that highlights the concepts of corporate social responsibility and ethics as they relate to supply chain management issues such as subcontracting labor to Global South countries and worker’s rights in terms of health, safety standards, and living wage.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Recognize the effects of market globalization of industries through a fashion lens.
  • Analyze supply chain ambiguity, exploring the roles that businesses, governments, and consumers play in determining transparency.
  • Examine the efficacy of social and environmental strategies undertaken by a firm such as H&M in addressing challenges revealed by the Rana Plaza event, and analyze their applicability to other companies in the garment and similar industries.