H&M collaborates with Clothes to Good to create jobs for people with disabilities

The Enclave Programme offers skills training and employment opportunities through a sustainable fashion initiative

27 January 2020 - 10:55
Vicky Chenery (job coach), Ruben Barnado, Mpho Thebyane, Kagiso Nhlapo, Tebatso Molapo (job coach) and Steven Till.
Vicky Chenery (job coach), Ruben Barnado, Mpho Thebyane, Kagiso Nhlapo, Tebatso Molapo (job coach) and Steven Till.
Image: Supplied/H&M

People with disabilities represent 7,5% of our population yet are among the most marginalised groups in SA. Holding a mere 1% of jobs in the country, they’re often dependent on social grants or trapped in poverty due to barriers such as limited access to educational and career opportunities. 

Social enterprise Clothes to Good (C2G) runs numerous programmes to drive awareness of the profound challenges they face. The enterprise is founded on the belief in the importance of creating a value-centred, fully inclusive and “green” ecosystem that works.

Having identified unique commercial opportunities, C2G recycles used and new clothing to create micro businesses and provide skills training for people living in low-income communities. Its particular focus on is on creating life and employment skills for people with disabilities and their families. 

In 2016, C2G reached out to H&M SA to collaborate from an environmental sustainability and clothing recycling perspective. By 2019, as part of H&M’s commitment to inclusivity and sustainable fashion in SA, the C2G’s life skills and supported employment component was introduced into the H&M distribution centre through a business “enclave” service. 

Today the Enclave Programme at the distribution centre is an ecosystem designed to grow business and reduce poverty, and consists of a group of people with disabilities fully included in the team to perform a variety of jobs and tasks. 

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“The programme plays a huge role in reaffirming the power of the inclusion of people with disabilities and unlocking the potential of a truly diverse workforce,” says Oldouz Mirzaie, H&M SA’s country manager. “Supporting H&M’s belief that inclusivity is diversity in action, the programme also provides invaluable insight into what it takes to foster an inclusive organisation.”

“The benefits of the enclave for people with disabilities are innumerable,” says Tammy Greyling, occupational therapist and operations director at C2G. “These include a slower, more successful integration into the workforce, opportunities to learn valuable life and employment skills, and time to address other practical challenges such as transport to and from work.

“Through the Enclave’s learning management system, people with disabilities are supported to access and retain mainstream employment. Similarly, employees of the company can adapt to and learn from the skills and capabilities of people with disabilities. Perceptions about working with people with disabilities have changed in a profound way. Not only have they proven to be highly productive, but they derive great joy from the work they do and have made a positive impact on the culture of the workplace,” says Greyling.

Kagiso Nhlapo.
Kagiso Nhlapo.
Image: Supplied/H&M

“In an inclusive and diverse environment, everyone contributes to decision-making and team performance by reflecting, respecting and relating to all employees, customers and society at large.”

Says Mirzaie: “Our approach to inclusion and service excellence across the business started at the distribution centre level but our intention is to scale this inclusion across the entire value chain over the next five years, with people with disabilities included right through to customer experience level.

“It’s important to note that only through strong collaboration, support and dedication has this programme been possible. Through this, too, we have learnt that employing people with disabilities is not just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense,” says Mirzaie.

“People with disabilities (not just physical, but including autism and intellectual disabilities) can make a significant and difference to the workplace. They are valuable, loyal, talented and dedicated. These individuals simply need to be provided the opportunities to make a difference in an organisation, from a cultural and business perspective. And they do.”

For further information visit the Clothes to Good website.

This article was paid for by H&M.