The Ethical Trading Initiative has backed calls for the Bangladeshi government to make a further increase in the minimum wage.
The move comes as UK retailers, including Marks & Spencer, Gap, Next, Tesco and Asda, came under fire for apparently using overseas factories accused of poor working conditions.
The minimum wage in Bangladesh rises to 3,000 taka (£27) a month in November, but the ETI – a partnership of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations - said this falls “far short” of the 5,000 taka supported by unions.
ETI chair Alan Roberts said: “The 2.5 million people working in the industry are clearly incredibly frustrated about the government’s continuing failure to set a minimum wage that reflects their true cost of living.
“Retailers sourcing from Bangladesh have a critical role to play. They must take urgent steps to ensure they are trading in a way that supports a living wage and decent terms and conditions for workers.”
He added retailers need to “embed ethical trade into the way they do business” with suppliers, “including developing close working relationships with factories, making sure they don’t place unrealistic demands on them, and supporting them to achieve maximum efficiency”.
The ETI has hired Peter McAllister, executive director of the International Cocoa Initiative, as director. He will assume the position October 11.