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Swedish low-cost fashion brand H&M says it has appointed a diversity leader after having been accused of racism over an ad showing a black child dressed in a hoodie reading “coolest monkey in the jungle.”
H&M first announced the appointment Tuesday on its Facebook page. In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, the retailer said Global Manager for Employee Relations Annie Wu, a company veteran, would be the new global leader for diversity and inclusiveness.
The retailer said on Facebook that it’s “commitment to addressing diversity and inclusiveness is genuine, therefore we have appointed a global leader, in this area, to drive our work forward.”
The image of the boy modeling the sweatshirt appeared online earlier this month and prompted accusations that H&M was racist, or at least oblivious.
The Stockholm-based company reiterated in its Facebook announcement that “the recent incident was entirely unintentional” but “demonstrates so clearly how big our responsibility is as a global brand.”
NBA star LeBron James and rapper Diddy were among those who had responded with outrage to the ad. American rappers The Weeknd and G-Eazy cancelled partnerships with H&M. In South Africa, there were protests at some H&M stores, while the response has been more muted in Europe.
H&M apologized for the ad earlier this month and said in a statement "we have got this wrong and we agree that, even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists." The fashion brand took down the ad and said the hoodie worn in it will be removed from sale and recycled.
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.