Walmart has found safety issues with at least 15 percent of the factories with which it does business in Bangladesh, a spokesman revealed on Sunday. Although most of the three dozen facilities were able to address the problems or are in the process of doing so, according to the company, Walmart severed business ties with two that couldn’t remediate the issues to its satisfaction. A third was shuttered because its owners are replacing it with a new facility. The world’s No. 1 retailer, one of the largest buyers of apparel made in Bangladesh, enlisted French certification agency Bureau Veritas to audit the more than 200 facilities it employs in the South Asian nation.
PREVIOUSLY ON ECOUTERRE: Walmart Owes Compensation to Three Major Bangladesh Factory Catastrophes
The aftermath of the Tazreen Fashions fire in November 2012.
Walmart says it will release the results of all completed inspections on its website—a first for a major Western retailer. One downside? The published audits won’t offer specific findings about conditions at the factories, which means we won’t be privy to details such as insufficient fire exits, lack of sprinklers, or illegally built floors. Instead, the reports will provide a general risk assessment based on a grade of A though D.
Walmart says it will release the results of all completed inspections on its website—a first for a major Western retailer.
“I am struck by how little real information they are providing,” Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a Washington labor-monitoring group. “They offer no specifics whatsoever as to the dangers workers face in these factories, all we get is a scoring system that is largely opaque.”
“We’ve spent $4 million on these audits, and we’re not done yet,” Jay Jorgensen, Walmart’s global chief compliance officer, told the Wall Street Journal. “There’s a lot of progress left to be made.”
Although the company says it will stop doing business with factories that receive a D rating, those same facilities have the opportunity for reevaluation after they correct their problems. Walmart previously said it would put up $50 million in low-interest loans to help factories make building improvements, as well, but no factories have taken up the offer to date.
Walmart is a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a North American-based, corporate-led initiative that’s been criticized for being less rigorous than the union-approved—and mostly European—Accord on Fire & Building Safety in Bangladesh. It has also faced flak for its failure to compensate the victims and families of three major Bangladesh catastrophes.
[Via Wall Street Journal]