H&M says it has appointed a ‘diversity leader’ after having been accused of racism over an ad showing a black boy dressed in a hoodie reading ‘coolest monkey in the jungle.’
H&M announced the move via its Facebook page on Tuesday evening, insisting that the group’s ‘commitment to addressing diversity and inclusiveness is genuine’ and that it had therefore chosen to ‘appoint a global leader, in this area, to drive our work forward’. The Stockholm-based company reiterated that ‘the recent incident was entirely unintentional’ but ‘demonstrates so clearly how big our responsibility is as a global brand’.
However, the move may have come too late for the brand to totally salvage its reputation, which has been dragged through the mud numerous times in the past few weeks as a result of the ‘insensitive’ image.
Several celebrities lent their voices to the furious criticism, with NBA star LeBron James and rapper Diddy among those who had responded with outrage to the ad.
Meanwhile, rappers The Weeknd and G-Eazy both cut ties with H&M, canceling their partnerships with the brand.
In South Africa, there were protests at some H&M stores, while the response has been somewhat more muted in Europe. The case highlights how important it has become for multinationals to take into account differences in cultural views and sensitivities between the markets it sells in. That’s especially true as social media makes it possible for an ad posted in one country to be shared and viewed anywhere else in the world.
H&M’s latest move comes just days after it was revealed that the parents of the young boy at the center of the controversy have had to move from their home in Sweden over fears for their safety – and the safety of their son.
Appearing on ITV’s This Morning on Monday, Terry – who initially raised eyebrows when she said critics should ‘get over it’ – and Frank said they have an ‘obligation to protect’ their children. ‘The most unfortunate thing is that my son is very young and there’s a lot that’s going to come with this and that really shakes me a little bit,’ Frank said on the show, before adding that Liam is unaware of the controversy around the picture. He believes people love him for his modeling job. He’s seen the pictures and he’s seen pictures online. He believes people love him for his modeling job and that he’s cool and confident in his job.’