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SAHRC to zoom in on businesses and human rights

The commission says its deeply disappointed about the recent controversial advertising campaign by retail giant H&M.

The H&M store at East Rand Mall is closed on Saturday 13 January 2018 after Economic Freedom Fighters staged a protest over an allegedly racist advert. Picture: Masa Kekana/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says it will be increasing its focus on the role of business and human rights.

The commission says its deeply disappointed about the recent advertising campaign by retail giant H&M featuring a black boy in a hoodie with the words "coolest monkey in the jungle".

It says as a global company, H&M should have been aware of the messages it sends.

The commission says it met with representatives from the retailer on Friday and reached an agreement in which the company assured it would come up with a plan of action.

SAHRC CEO Tseliso Thipanyane said: “They’ve apologised but we want concrete steps from them to make sure this never happens. This will involve educating their managers and staff and also have clear policies.”

H&M says its usual high standards of checks and balances have failed the company.

The retailer adds it’s taken steps to ensure such offensive garments are never manufactured under its name again.

Headquarter management will now receive training from a specialist organisation on issues relating to diversity.

Socially-responsible marketing will be promoted during a collaboration between H&M’s Swedish marketing management team and local “black agencies”.

H&M is also exploring potential collaborations with local South African designers as well as plans to open six new stores this year.

This is expected to create 300 jobs.

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