Today marks one year since the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory building, which killed more than 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers. As we have noted before, Walmart, the second-biggest purchaser of apparel made in Bangladesh, was listed as a customer for a factory located in the building, and orders for Walmart goods were found in the rubble. Sadly, Walmart’s response to the tragedy has been woefully inadequate.
Politico broke the news earlier this week that Walmart hired lobbyists to fight a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have cost the company business. Walmart has refused to sign the binding Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, in favor of a voluntary alliance it formed with Gap and other retailers. From Politico:
Last November, a massive fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh killed over 100 garment workers. Just months later, in April of this year, Rana Plaza, an eight-story garment factory, collapsed, killing over 1,100 people in what has been called “the worst industrial accident in the history of the garment industry.” Both tragedies had a Walmart connection: Walmart-brand apparel was found in the rubble at Tazreen, and one of the factories in Rana Plaza listed Walmart as a customer it made goods for.
After the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, Walmart issued a series of bold proclamations. Well, we here at WMTS decided that it might be worth checking in to see if Walmart has lived up to its promises.
“…Ms Mayer’s appointment to the chief executive role at Yahoo has made her a new lightning rod for criticism of Walmart.” – Financial Times
Three weeks ago, Rana Plaza, an eight-story garment factory in Bangladesh, collapsed in what some have called “the worst industrial accident in the history of the garment industry.” More than 1,100 factory workers died. Sadly, what happened at Rana Plaza is only the latest in a series of disasters in Bangladesh’s $18 billion apparel manufacturing industry. With apparel suppliers under pressure to keep production costs low, factories often cut corners on safety and push the structural limits of their factory buildings, risking deadly accidents.
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.
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