Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Clean water topped women’s rights and education when Europe’s second-biggest clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB invited people in an online ballot to vote on what issues need the most support going forward.
After more than 100,000 votes were cast on the web from five categories, clean water came in first with 40,000 compared with empowering women second at 21,504 and educational rights at 21,309, according to Stockholm-based H&M.
The top three were defined by H&M as providing “safe access to clean water and sanitation,” “faster opportunities for women mainly through education and economic empowerment” and “champion every girl and boy’s equal right to education.”
H&M customers and employees were asked to pick which of five issues its Conscious Foundation should address in the coming years. On a dedicated website open from Oct. 22 to Oct. 29 in 18 languages, votes came from around the world, with the bulk from Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.
“A lot of people in several countries have taken the chance to vote and we are very happy about that,” said Karl- Johan Persson, chief executive officer of H&M and a board member of H&M Conscious Foundation.
Besides clean water, women and educational rights, voters could also opt for safeguarding natural resources or “reduction of poverty through self-empowerment.”
H&M Conscious Foundation, a non-profit organization set up in 2007 when the Swedish fashion retailer turned 60, will now pick three international organizations to work with to address the winning issues.
There won’t be a difference in support among the three based on the number of votes. The partnerships, to be chosen in collaboration with experts in the field, are expected to be in place at the beginning of 2014.
The foundation, which this year received 500 million kronor ($78 million) from H&M’s founding family, previously worked with organizations such as WaterAid and FRANK Water.
WaterAid helps provide families in the slums of Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka gain access to safe water and sanitation while FRANK Water works to provide sustainable clean- water projects in developing countries. Bangladesh is one of H&M’s biggest sourcing markets for garments.
--Editors: Randall Hackley, Tony Barrett