H&M’s new diversity chief designs a more inclusive future

H&M diversity

H&M is set to kick off a series of workshops and training this fall for thousands of its employees at its more than 500 North American stores aimed at addressing unconscious bias.

The moves are the first of their kind for the fast-fashion chain and come after it faced international backlash early last year when a black child model wearing a “monkey in the jungle” T-shirt was featured on its website in United Kingdom.

Since the uproar, H&M has hired Nigerian-born Ezinne Kwubiri, the first to hold the position as H&M head of inclusion and diversity for North America, its largest market. Kwubiri, a former Viacom executive who joined last October, reports directly to H&M’s new North American president, Martino Pessina. She works with Annie Wu, who is based at the company headquarters in Stockholm and was named global head of diversity and inclusiveness of H&M early last year. Kwubiri is developing a comprehensive inclusion, diversity and cultural plan that includes training for all 17,000 U.S. workers, including new employees during their orientation. Training has already been completed for the management, regional and district teams. H&M has turned to consulting firms like Accenture to help develop the workshops.

The moves come as other companies including Gucci and Prada are pledging to combat racism in the fashion business after a series of missteps.

Kwubiri recently spoke with The Associated Press about her new role at H&M and the challenges for the fashion giant, which has more than 4,000 stores globally. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length. (read more)

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