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Protest outside Brussels H&M against greenwashing and fast fashion

08:43 04/10/2023

About 50 people gathered outside the H&M store on Rue Neuve in Brussels this weekend to protest against greenwashing, labour conditions for employees and environmentally destructive fast fashion practices.

The demonstration, led by the Fair Fashion collective featured songs, speeches and the chanting of slogans, and came in the wake of a report highlighting the greenwashing of used-clothing take-back schemes.

The survey from an NGO called Changing Markets showed that while many clothing retailers offer to take back used items in order to recycle them or donate them to people in need, 76% of clothes are in fact destroyed or abandoned.

H&M was highlighted as a brand that is particularly representative of both greenwashing - misleadingly marketing itself as sustainable - and the abuses typically associated with the fast fashion market, including poor labour conditions.

“The pace of work is hellish,” one of the members of the Fair Fashion collective said, quoting an employee from the survey.

“One employee even said that she fell ill once a month on average, that she didn't eat enough. Employees couldn’t stop working even to go to the toilet. I have one word that comes to mind: shame.”

H&M was also criticised for dismissing employees during pregnancy, charging wages below a decent standard of living and overproducing textiles in its factories.

The demonstration in Brussels included demands for better management of clothing recycling and also tougher European legislation against fast fashion.

Protesters, who were joined by Ecolo MEP Saskia Bricmon, said Europe must combat the marketing of cheap clothes made in conditions that do not respect workers' rights, particularly in Asian countries.

H&M declined to comment on the demonstration, which was not the first of its kind against the chain retailer.

Photo: Gaëlle Ponselet/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons