The world’s largest retailer Walmart has declined to sign the IndustriAll safety agreement, instead opting for its own standards which it claims go further and will produce faster results.
Walmart has committed to inspecting 100% of its 279 supplying factories within the next six months and immediately publish the results online. It has already begun this process, which features factories supplying George at Asda, and the first results will be released on June 1.
Walmart’s commitments contrast with the new Fire and Building Safety accord, initiated by IndustryAll and UNI Global Union and backed by the Ethical Trading Initiative, which requires firms to inspect 65% of the factories which supply them. The accord requires retailers to develop a plan in 45 days.
Tesco revealed yesterday it will invest £1m to support safety improvements across the Bangladesh garment industry. It will also provide training for internationally qualified fire and structural safety engineers and will provide interest free loans to its suppliers to support any infrastructure improvements which might be needed.
The accord has been signed by H&M, Primark C&A, Tommy Hilfiger, Sainsbury’s, N Brown, Marks & Spencer, Calvin Klein, Zara and Tesco among others following the collapse of the Rana Plaza building which housed clothing factories in Bangladesh last month.
Next, Matalan, River Island, Sports Direct, Peacocks, Shop Direct and the Arcadia group, alongside Walmart, have not signed the accord before the deadline set by NGOs and labour leaders, according to the Guardian.
Walmart said: “Walmart has participated with other stakeholders in discussing group efforts to improve working conditions in Bangladesh. The company, like a number of other retailers, is not in a position to sign the IndustriAll accord at this time.
“While we agree with much of the proposal, the IndustriAll plan also introduces requirements, including governance and dispute resolution mechanisms, on supply chain matters that are appropriately left to retailers, suppliers and government, and are unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals. Walmart believes its safety plan meets or exceeds the IndustriAll proposal.”
Walmart vice president of ethical sourcing Rajan Kamalanathan said: “Transparency is vital to make progress in improving factory conditions, and by disclosing this information, government, workers, non-governmental agencies, and companies can benefit from this work.”