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GENEVA/STOCKHOLM: The International Labour Organization (ILO) and clothing retailer H&M have signed a new agreement to promote sustainable global supply chains worldwide.

iloThe accord - which runs until 2018 - covers work on industrial relations, wages, training and skills development in factories H&M sources from, as well as strengthening employers' and workers' organizations in the global garment industry.

The cooperation between the two sides dates back to 2001 when H&M joined the ILO 'Better Factories' program in Cambodia. Last year they expanded their relationship to address governance, industrial relations and wages in the country as well as co-launching a training and skills development project in Bangladesh.

"Issues in the garment industry are systemic and require action that helps develop effective industrial relations and promote respect of international labour standards. There is therefore an urgent need to establish strategic and comprehensive collaborations with companies that have experience in these fields, such as H&M," said ILO director-general Guy Ryder (right with H&M Sustainability head Helena Helmersson).

"We see the cooperation as a great opportunity to further strengthen our work towards the establishment of well-functioning industrial relations on all our strategic production markets. ILO, with its unique tripartite composition, is the perfect partner for addressing issues such as wages and training and skills development in the textile industry," added Karl-Johan Persson, H&M CEO.

The ILO said it wants the partnership to establish a "positive and innovative model" for other brands and create a global alliance to promote its work agenda in the garment industry's global supply chain. Earlier this year the ILO released a report saying forced labour in the private economy generates US$150 billion in illegal profits per year, about three times more than previously estimated.

Next month H&M will launch 'Conscious Denim', a clothing collection that not only uses more sustainable materials but also more conscious processes. In a first for the company, the washes used on its denim have been graded to assess their environmental impact, including energy and water use."We've worked hard to reduce the environmental impact from the washing processes alongside using materials that are more sustainable," explained Helmersson. H&M operates in 54 markets and works with around 900 suppliers covering 1,900 factories.