The five garment factories that were located at the non-compliant Rana Plaza used to manufacture apparel items for many leading global brands, including the Canadian arm of Wal-Mart.
Ether Tex Ltd, which had its factory on the fifth floor of the building, shows in its website that it produces clothes for Wal-mart and Atlantic Sportswear of Canada, C&A and Kik of Germany, and Libra of the Netherlands, to name a few.
The website of New Wave -- whose units New Wave Bottoms and New Wave Style were operating on the second, sixth and seventh floors respectively -- lists as its buyers UK's Matalan and Bon Marche, Italy's Benetton, Spain's Mango, and Ireland's Primark, among others.
Phantom-Tac, which was on the fourth floor, is a 50-50 joint venture with Spain's Textile Audit Company SL, according to its website. However, its buyers were not listed on the site.
Its sister concern, Phantom Apparels Ltd, too, was sited at the complex, on the third floor. The list of its buyers also could not be found.
The five factories had 3,122 workers, according to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
When asked why the trade body permitted the factories at a shopping complex, BGMEA President Atiqul Islam, said: “Had the building not been compliant, a Spanish firm would not have set up a unit there.”
“But it's true that companies like Wal-Mart would never place orders at these factories.” But when he was informed that Wal-Mart was, in fact, a buyer of one of the factories, Islam did not respond.
The latest incident that took upwards of 200 lives, once again, puts the microscope on the sub-standard working conditions of the country's garment factories.
Clean Clothes Campaign, an Amsterdam-based advocacy group, has long been highlighting fact on the global stage, blaming buyers for not inspecting the factory conditions before placing orders.
“How shall they [buyers] know that the factories are located in a faultily constructed building?” said Anwar-ul-Alam Chowdhury Parvez, a former president of the BGMEA.
The incident will put further pressure on the apparel industry, which accounts for 80 percent of the total exports. In fiscal 2011-12, the sector raked in nearly $25 billion.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, another former president of the trade body, said he was inundated with calls from buyers after the incident. “They are gravely concerned,” he said.
But he, along with Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, the immediate past president of the association, hopes the stakeholders, including buyers, would come forward to help.
“We hope they will help us like they have done after the Tazreen accident,” said Mohiuddin.