Following the outcry on Monday 8 January 2018 – mainly in the USA – over an H&M advert for a sweater which was deemed racist, the company initially issued a short apology for “offending people” with the picture which showed a young black boy modelling the hooded top. The top was emblazoned with the words ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle’.
The Swedish company also removed the image from the USA. However it was still available in the UK and other territories until Wednesday when H&M issued a second fuller apology:
H&M’s Full Apology for the ‘Coolest Monkey’ Hooded Sweater Ad
To all customers, staff, media, stakeholders, partners, suppliers, friends and critics.
We would like to put on record our position in relation to the image and promotion of a children’s sweater, and the ensuing response and criticism.
Our position is simple and unequivocal—we have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry.
H&M is fully committed to playing its part in addressing society’s issues and problems, whether it’s diversity, working conditions or environmental protection—and many others. Our standards are high and we feel that we have made real progress over the years in playing our part in promoting diversity and inclusion. But we clearly haven’t come far enough.
We agree with all the criticism that this has generated—we have got this wrong and we agree that, even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists. We appreciate the support of those who have seen that our product and promotion were not intended to cause offence but, as a global brand, we have a responsibility to be aware of and attuned to all racial and cultural sensitivities—and we have not lived up to this responsibility this time.
This incident is accidental in nature, but this doesn’t mean we don’t take it extremely seriously or understand the upset and discomfort it has caused.
We have taken down the image and we have removed the garment in question from sale. It will be recycled.
We will now be doing everything we possibly can to prevent this from happening again in future.
Racism and bias in any shape or form, conscious or unconscious, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable and need to be eradicated from society. In this instance we have not been sensitive enough to this agenda.
Please accept our humble apologies.
For South Africa’s EFF it was too little too late and members went on the rampage today, trashing H&M stores at two shopping malls in Gauteng, and peacefully protesting in other cities like Cape Town.
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) January 8, 2018