Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer have joined major retailers including Primark, H&M and Zara in signing a new accord on fire and building safety in Bangladesh, while other retailers including Gap and Walmart have yet to declare their final position.
The move follows the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka on 24 April, which claimed more than 1,000 lives.
In a blog post yesterday, Tesco’s group commercial director Kevin Grace said that although the company did not use factories in the Rana Plaza, it wanted to help prevent a similar tragedy.
“For the multinational retailers like Tesco who source from Bangladesh, we must help it to change in a positive way, a way which sustains and improves the livelihoods of all those who work in the industry,” he said.
“For the multinational retailers like Tesco who source from Bangladesh, we must help it to change in a positive way, a way which sustains and improves the livelihoods of all those who work in the industry”
Kevin Grace, Tesco
Tesco will pledge £1m from its own profits to support the improvement of factory conditions in Bangladesh. This will go towards training union staff and structural safety engineers, and interest-free loans for supplier partners needing support for infrastructure improvements.
Grace also outlined the company’s new commitments around safety, partnerships and transparency in its supply chain.
Sainsbury’s confirmed to The Grocer today it would also be signing the agreement.
In a statement today, M&S said it too had signed the accord. “We have a proven track record in Bangladesh, we believe our approach works and all our suppliers must adhere to our strict ethical standards as a condition of working with us. This includes regular fire, health and safety checks and we only source from single occupancy factories. But we also recognise the need for a safer garment industry in Bangladesh and have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety,” said director of sourcing Krishan Hundal.
The accord on Bangladesh safety has been drawn up by labour groups IndustriALL and UNI Global Union, and retailers have until tomorrow to sign up.
UNI Global Union general secretary Philip Jennings said: “We welcome the decision of H&M, Inditex, C&A, Primark and Tesco to sign and we urge other retailers to follow suit immediately.
“We call on these companies to do the right thing on behalf of the more than 1,250 textile workers killed in Bangladesh factory disasters in the last six months, including Rana Plaza where the tragedy is still unfolding. This is black and white, life and death.”
Walmart issues factory warning
The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, has not said whether it will sign the accord. However, on Monday it issued a statement calling on the Bangladeshi government to halt production at one garment factory and investigate conditions at another.
“The government of Bangladesh did the responsible thing last week by closing factories believed to be dangerous,” said Walmart’s vice president of ethical sourcing Rajan Kamalanathan. “We call on them to show the same leadership in the Stitch Tone Apparels and Liz Apparels cases, and take any actions necessary to ensure safe conditions.”
Meanwhile Gap said on Monday it was willing to sign the accord but had one reservation around how it will be used to resolve disputes.
In the UK, Morrisons told The Grocer today it had not been asked to sign the accord but that it was reviewing its clothes sourcing now as it was preparing for its 2014 spring/summer range.