Women’s Wear Daily reports that Walmart is hinting at plans to end or sharply curtail apparel sourcing from Bangladesh, where over 100 workers were killed in a fire last November at a factory that made Walmart-brand clothing. Before the fire, Walmart had played a key role in blocking a proposal for retailers to pay Bangladeshi suppliers slightly more for apparel in order to help factories pay for fire and electrical safety improvements.
Walmart is the second-biggest customer for Bangladeshi apparel factories and has an opportunity to be a hugely positive influence in making the country’s apparel industry safer. (The company is infamous, after all, for keeping its suppliers on a short leash.) But rather than investing in apparel workers and factory safety, the company appears to be on the verge of cutting and running, shirking responsibility.
Is Walmart perhaps planning on making more of its apparel in the U.S., as part of its new “Made in America” initiative? Nope—it’s looking at other “low-cost” countries with marginally better safety records where it can continue to pay workers mere pennies.