Experiments with Truth: Analysis

Public outrage over factory conditions spur labor deal

Two weeks after the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed in one of the worst industrial disasters in history, a brash human-rights ad went viral. It paired a smiling photo of the chief executive of H&M, the Swedish retailer that is the world’s largest buyer of clothes from Bangladesh, with a picture of an anguished woman at the Rana Plaza rubble.

The headline read: “Enough Fashion Victims?”

It did not matter that no clothes produced by H&M had been found among the twisted metal and broken concrete as the death toll rose beyond 1,100. The refusal of a major Swedish newspaper to print the ad simply added to the notoriety online.

“They felt it was too tough,” Alex Wilks, the campaign director of Avaaz, the global advocacy group that created the ad, said of H&M. “But our feeling was this is a really tough topic. Lots of people lost their lives, so it’s worth escalating the discussions.”

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