Retailers' group publishes list of factories to inspect
A group of around 90 global retailers yesterday published a list of more than 1,500 garment factories across Bangladesh that they will inspect to ensure fire and building safety.
The 1,500 factories account for about a third of all garment units in the country's $20 billion industry, and employ around two million workers, according to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
The group represents global giants including Hennes & Mauritz AB, Inditex SA, PVH Corp, and Benetton SpA.
However, North American Alliance, another platform of 22 US-based retailers, is yet to come up with their list. They will inspect more than 500 factories. The government will survey the rest of the 5,000 factories in Bangladesh's garment sector.
The global retailers initiated the drive to inspect the factories that they use in Bangladesh after the Rana Plaza building collapse, which claimed more than 1,100 lives in April.
"These data points provide an unprecedented map of the Bangladesh apparel industry covered by the Accord," the accord's interim director Sean Ansett said in a statement.
"[They] are playing a key role in prioritising factories for safety inspections," The Wall Street Journal reported quoting Ansett.
The publication of the list reflects a growing belief that the garment industry's chronic safety problems can only be fixed through a group effort, Ansett said.
Most factories take orders from multiple retailers. In recent months, retailers have found their calls for factories to fix their potential dangers are much more effective when they band together.
The list includes information, pertinent to assessing building safety, some of which has never previously been disclosed in the apparel industry, the IndustriALL Global Union, the initiator of the accord, said in the statement.
Key data points include factory name and address, the number of stories of each structure, whether a building includes multiple apparel factories and whether it houses other types of businesses, the number of workers and Accord signatories.
Accord leaders note that additional data points will be disclosed as more information is gathered from signatories and that, with some companies that have joined recently still to disclose their lists, the total number of factories will grow, the statement added.
Many garment orders in Bangladesh are illegally subcontracted to unauthorised factories, which are often not inspected for safety violations and workers' rights abuses.
Though many retailers have codes of conduct that prohibit unauthorised subcontracting, unions and workers' rights groups say many subtly condone it because it allows them to get their products on time.