H&M Partnered With A South African Marketing Team To Combat Racist Practices After Protests Overtook Stores
Learning from mistakes.
On March 3, the South African Ahmed Kathrada Foundations (AKF) Director Neeshan Bolton announced a new collaborative effort between the foundation and H&M to combat racism in the advertising industry.
During an event hosted by AKF during South Africa’s annual Human Rights Month, Balton took a moment to acknowledge the efforts of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) that took shape in protesting H&M. The protests occurred in January after the clothing retailer posted an advertisement featuring a young black boy in a “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” sweatshirt. Many, including the EFF, saw the advertisement as an allusion to black people commonly being stereotyped as and related to monkeys. In response, the EFF protested H&M stores and wrecked displays.
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ICYMI: Protests in Johannesburg over ‘racist’ H&M ad https://t.co/BoJVj63lYr pic.twitter.com/pEG0BpJYhD— Jejebaba (@jejeguy2) February 13, 2018
”They admitted they were wrong and are trying to understand how to undo their mistake. Part of that engagement was because of the EFF demonstration. We had planned a demonstration after the EFF launched their protest, we could not proceed because we couldn’t match their scale,” Balton said, Citizen reported.
This new collaboration between the AKF and H&M will aim to encourage racial and cultural awareness amongst its workers, and the company will strive to learn better strategies from South African marketing companies. To accomplish this, H&M will send their marketing team to South Africa to learn from its experts first hand. The collaboration will also aim to uplift South African home-grown companies by buying from South African manufacturers and include South African-made furniture and materials for its stores.
“The H&M global human resources head and the transformation officer arrived in the country and agreed to work with the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, and ensure that [the] South African management team and staff fully understand the complexity of race relations and racism in the country. We are mindful that had the EFF not done what they did, H&M would never have agreed to meet with the ARNSA,” Balton continued.
Johnannesburg, where the EFF protests took place, and the rest of the nation may soon see a change in H&M ads as more efforts of the clothing company toward cultural and racial awareness are made.