WASHINGTON – US retail giant Walmart announced that it would conduct in-depth safety inspections at all 279 of its Bangladesh suppliers, in the wake of the building collapse that killed more than 1,100.
The firm said on Tuesday it would release the names of and inspection information on each of the factories, and meanwhile also issued a list of more than 200 factories that it has blacklisted for failing to meet its standards.
But Walmart said it was not yet prepared to join an industry-wide pact on safety — the IndustriALL Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
The retailer argued that the agreement would involve requirements that would impede regular business while not advancing safety.
“The company will immediately order its production stopped at facilities where urgent safety issues are identified, notify the factory owner and government authorities of the need to take action,” Walmart said.
“As a result, workers in these facilities can be assured of safer working conditions, and the entire market will be lifted to a new standard.”
The action comes in the wake of the April 24 collapse of a nine-story building outside Dhaka housing multiple garment factories, including some which reportedly supplied Walmart.
At least 1,127 people died in the worst ever disaster to strike the global textile industry.
Already in November, another 111 workers had been killed in a fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh that also supplied Walmart, among other global names in the clothing industry.
Walmart said it was hiring global inspections group Bureau Veritas to conduct fire-safety training for all workers at its Bangladesh suppliers.
It will also contract Labor Voices, a company that works with workers to understand their problems, to help Walmart maintain its factory standards.
“Walmart is committed to a global supply chain that first and foremost provides safe conditions for workers,” said Rajan Kamalanathan, vice president of ethical sourcing for Walmart.
In a separate statement, the firm said it was not ready to join a protocol — the “Accord on Fire and Building Safety” — endorsed by fellow clothes buyers Benetton, Mango, Marks & Spencer, Inditex and H&M among others.
“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 said.
The company said it believes its own safety plan “meets or exceeds the IndustriALL proposal, and will get results more quickly.”
“Since the IndustriALL accord affords a 45-day discussion period, Walmart looks forward to participating in the continued discussion. If the issues with the accord could be addressed, Walmart would be pleased to join the effort.”