As the death toll in the Bangladesh factory collapse
climbs past 1,000, major retailers that do business in the country are facing calls for accountability.Deadly factory accidents are relatively common in Bangladesh, where government safety standards are rarely enforced.
Bangladesh has said it will discuss raising the minimum wage from $38-a-month, currently the world’s lowest.
The garment industry in Bangladesh accounts for about $20 billion in exports. Of those exports, about 59 per cent go to the European Union, 26 per cent go to the U.S. and 5 per cent go to Canada.
Below is a list of some of the biggest brands that produce merchandise in Bangladesh:
H&M: Bjorn Claeson, senior policy advisor for the International labour Rights Forum, told Business Insider that H&M is one of Bangladesh’s biggest buyers. A section of H&M’s website is dedicated to explaining the company’s commitment to improving working conditions in Bangladesh, and the company has also posted its code of conduct for suppliers. But Claeson says retailers need to go beyond that.
He said: “[Brands] have codes of conduct for suppliers they audit, which includes basic safety standards. The problem is that brands are not willing to make anything else but voluntary, non-binding commitments to worker rights and health and safety standards. … They are under no obligation to fix the problems, to make the factories safe or to tell workers of the dangers they face.”
Just this week, H&M agreed to a factory safety accord that is legally binding and requires a financial commitment from retailers to improve safety in Bangladesh factories.
Walmart: Claeson names the retail giant as another major buyer in Bangladesh. Walmart has issued statements about fire safety in Bangladesh and instituted a “zero tolerance policy for unauthorised subcontracting” to dangerous factories. But the company refused to compensate victims of last year’s Tazreen factory fire that killed 112 people. Walmart was among the retailers that met with unions and NGOs last month to discuss improving worker safety.
J.C. Penney: Representatives from the struggling department store were also at the worker safety meeting last month. Joe Fresh clothing that was slated for sale in J.C. Penney stores was found amongst the rubble of the collapsed factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The company that owns Joe Fresh has said it will pay reparations to family members of victims.
Benetton: Some clothing from Benetton was also found in the collapsed Dhaka factory. The company initially denied that the factory was producing clothes for the retailer at the time of the collapse, but recently admitted that one of its direct suppliers had subcontracted orders to New Wave Style, which operated factories in the Dhaka building. Benetton’s CEO told The Huffington Post that the company will continue to use factories in Bangladesh.
Gap: ABC News says Gap is “one of the largest American retailers producing clothing in Bangladesh.” Claeson also cited the brand as a major player in the country’s garment industry. The company will be the target of union protests this weekend in the U.S. Gap recently launched a safety program that provides financial assistance for factories, but the company declined to sign a workers’ safety agreement that would have been more binding.
Zara: The parent company of the popular fast-fashion brand also has suppliers in Bangladesh. Inditex, which Bloomberg calls the world’s largest clothing retailer, cut ties with two subcontractors in the country after a factory fire that killed seven people in January. The company joined the Bangladesh factory safety accord at the same time as H&M.
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