Last week H&M received intense backlash after releasing a controversial ad featuring a black child wearing a sweatshirt with the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle.” The brand was slammed on social media by a slew of celebrities for being racially insensitive, and two of its collaborators, The Weeknd and G-Eazy, ended their working relationship with the retailer. H&M took the criticism seriously, it says, and has taken steps to address its internal diversity problem.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, H&M wrote that the ad was not intentional. “The recent incident was entirely unintentional, but it demonstrates so clearly how big our responsibility is as a global brand,” the statement read. “We have reached out, around the world, inside and outside H&M to get feedback.”
Then the company announced that it appointed a new global leader to expand the feedback work. CNN Money reports that the new Global Leader for Diversity and Inclusiveness position will be filled by Annie Wu, who will also continue in her current role as H&M’s Global Manager of Employee Relations.
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The brand recently had to temporarily close all of its South African locations after protestors knocked over racks of clothing throughout stores.
EFF targets @hm over racist advert. https://t.co/i7z2ss5QfK #H&M pic.twitter.com/aP6pdvY0QA
— Jacaranda News (@JacaNews) January 13, 2018
“None of our staff or customers have been injured,” the brand said in a statement to the New York Times over its decision to close all stores in the area. “We continue to monitor the situation closely and will open the stores as soon as the situation is safe again. We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable. We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged product and image.”
The brand later apologized to employees on Twitter, writing, “We would also like to apologize sincerely to our employees, many of whom were placed in highly stressful situations in the wake of protest action. It has been a difficult and challenging week for H&M but we remain fully committed to our South African operation.”