Saturday, May 18, 2013

Retail Indifference To Bangladeshi Workers

The deadline to sign onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh passed last week, and at least 10 major North American retailers refused to participate.

The agreement, which demands a five-year commitment from participating retailers to conduct independent safety inspections of factories and pay up to $500,000 per year toward safety improvements, has seen greater support internationally than in the U.S.

Major European retailers -- for example, Marks & Spencer and Carrefour -- have joined the agreement. Others who've signed on include companies recently involved with factory disasters in Bangladesh, such as Swedish retailer H&M and Italian fashion house Benetton. A 2010 factory fire at a facility that made cardigans for H&M killed 21 people, and Bennetton had a supplier in the Rana Plaza factory that collapsed last month, killing more than 1,100 people.

PVH, parent to Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, signed the accord, along with Abercrombie & Fitch, which agreed just hours before the deadline. Many U.S. retailers are still absent from the agreement, according to the Worker Rights Consortium, an international labor monitoring group.  Many of these companies claim that they are working on/improving their own safety programs.  But of course, none of those measure are legally binding (like the Fire and Building Safety accord)-- so there's no guarantee that those companies will curtail/cut back/eliminate their safety programs after the headlines fade away.

For those of you who factor moral issues into their retailing decisions, here is a list of the largest U.S. retailers who lack the courage to follow the lead of most international companies in guaranteeing improvements in safety for Bangladeshi workers:

Foot Locker
American Eagle Outfitters
North Face

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