Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 11.48.09 AMSwedish retailer H&M took a few steps this week to better its reputation. It is moving forward with an eco-conscious collection set to hit stores on April 10th. H&M also said it is mulling over raising prices to give its factory workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia living wages.

The plight of workers in garment factories has attracted attention from the media ever since a building collapse and fire in May led to a death toll of over 1,000. H&M became one of the first retailers to sign an accord with the labor department that legally bound them to maintain safe working conditions. However, this week was the first time a retailer spoke about the hard truth for consumers: non-exploitive conditions mean higher prices if retailers are to keep their margins.

Historically, reputation has been key to the business of luxury brands, but H&M’s efforts suggest that it can be just as important for discount or mid-priced chains. According to our latest Digital IQ Index: Fashion report, the majority of consumers do online research before purchasing a product online. Fashion brands receive 51% of their traffic from search. With that in mind, brands need to be more conscious of how their actions affect public perception, as an association with horrific images of injured workers can undo online and offline efforts to build a brand.

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