US retail giant Walmart today stands accused of attempting to undermine a safety plan to prevent industrial disasters such as the Dhaka factory collapse in Bangladesh after failing to sign a safety accord agreed by two dozen other retailers.
Walmart opted out of the safety agreement, favouring creating its own agreement which has seen the group vow to conduct “in-depth” safety inspections and review all of its 279 factories in Bangladesh within six months.
While affected retailers including Primark, Next and Sainsbury’s have signed up to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, with an implementation plan set to be developed within 45 days, the Asda owner refused to follow suit.
Instead, Walmart has promised to provide a detailed report to aid it in making responsible sourcing decisions, though this is not legally binding and does not involve offering financial support to victims of the tragedy and those affected.
Commenting on the move, Rajan Kamalanathan, Vice President of Ethical Sourcing for Walmart., 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.”
Walmart also noted that all workers will be given safety training while the group announced it will donate some $600,000 (£393,000) towards a scheme which will “empower workers to have a voice in the solution.”
However, anti-poverty charity War On Want attacked the retailer, as well as fashion retailer Gap, for evading the broader plan.
Murray Worthy, ASenior Campaigner for the charity, said: “All major brands and high street retailers that care about the safety of the workers who make their clothes must sign the Bangladesh Safety Accord.
“These companies have less than 24 hours to meet the deadline to join the agreement and engage in this groundbreaking initiative that will save workers’ lives.
“It is appalling to see attempts by companies like Gap and Asda Wal-Mart to try and gut the agreement or propose their own voluntary models of inspection - the same voluntary models that failed so badly and led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people.
“These companies must stop trying to wreck this landmark deal and join this vital effort to ensure disasters like the recent building collapse never happen again.”