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:
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.
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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