PREVIOUSLY ON ECOUTERRE: More Brands, Retailers Commit to Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety
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While competitors such as H&M, Mango, and Zara have committed themselves to financing vital safety upgrades in Bangladesh, Gap has held back, even going so far as to create an entire website to defend its decision not to join the pact. Labor advocates claim that Gap wants to remove a provision that makes the accord legally binding, rendering it unenforceable.
Labor advocates claim that Gap wants to remove a provision that makes the accord legally binding, rendering it unenforceable.
“Gap says it will sign the agreement, as long as it isn’t binding,” says Rob Wohl, a campaigner with SumofUs.org. “That’s ridiculous. Even the rest of the garment industry acknowledges that corporate-controlled codes of conduct have failed and that legally binding safety standards are necesssary to ensure that the clothes we buy aren’t made in death traps.
Despite Walmart’s perceived—and hastily denied—role in the Tazreen Fashions factory fire that killed 112 workers in November, along with revelations that it played a key role in blocking a proposal to have global retailers help their Bangladesh suppliers improve their electrical and fire safety, the world’s largest retailer has continued to resist signing any legally enforceable agreements.
Walmart says it has drafted its own plan for improving safety at garment factories.
Instead, Walmart says it has drafted its own plan—including the establishment of an Environmental Health and Safety Academy in Bangladesh—for improving safety at garment factories. The company says it will conduct its own safety inspections at all 279 of the factories it works with in Bangladesh.
“Walmart believes its safety plan meets or exceeds the plan put forth by other manufacturers,” the company said in a statement earlier this month, adding that its strategy “will get results more quickly.”
Fast Retailing, Asia’s largest clothing retailer, says it hasn’t decided if it will join the Bangladesh safety accord. Neither does the company, which owns the Uniqlo clothing chain, have a timeline for making a decision, according to the Wall Street Journal on Monday. Like Walmart, the company says it will opt for its own safety-improvement plans for the factories it employs, including new mandates for regular and stricter fire and disaster drills.
Fast Retailing says it will opt for its own safety-improvement plans for the factories it employs.
“We want to first focus on what we can do right now, on our own,” says Yukihiro Nitta, head of Fast Retailing’s corporate social responsibility group.