ITALY/BANGLADESH: Benetton defends its position on Bangladesh
Italian fashion firm Benetton has moved to defend its position on Bangladesh following accusations it has violated terms of the Accord and is dragging its feet over paying into the compensation fund.
Since the Rana Plaza disaster in April last year, Benetton has received criticism over its presence in Bangladesh. The group was accused of not disclosing the names of suppliers in the country, and was asked to make an immediate public donation of US$5m to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.
Last week, campaigners called on a number of multi-million brands, including Benetton, to "stop dragging their feet" and pay into the fund.
In light of this, the company today set out a response to the criticism in a bid to clarify its position.
The group said it has "never had any kind of continuous relationship" with the suppliers that operated in the Rana Plaza building. It added that local supplier, New Wave Style, only received occasional orders, amounting to 0.06% of Benetton's production.
"Even though these were only occasional and very small orders, before starting supplies we performed an audit, which revealed no problems related to workers' conditions. Only in a later phase did we obtain further information that indicated that the conditions to continue the working relationship with New Wave Style no longer existed. As a result we took the initiative to terminate all relationships even before the tragic accident.
Benetton said all of its suppliers and related companies are on the list of firms to be audited under the auspices of the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord.
"As to why we have remained in Bangladesh, we would like to reiterate that immediately after the tragic events of Rana Plaza, the government of Bangladesh publicly called on companies not to leave the country: the textile sector accounts for about 30% of its GDP," the company said.
Benetton has also been accused of not committing to paying into the Rana Plaza Fund. Like Matalan, the company has paid into a separate scheme to support some workers disabled by the accident. However, the amount is not known.
In response, Benetton said it "immediately acted alongside [NGO] BRAC" in the aftermath of the Dhaka factory collapse.
"In addition to this, we were at the same time proponents of the round table created for the victims' fund, which also involved Clean Clothes/Abiti Puliti, and we were one of four companies that coordinated it. We ended our involvement in the round table when we realised that times were lengthening and we were coming to the point of envisaging a purely voluntary contribution system, one which was not at all proportionate to each company's presence in Bangladesh.
"We did not share this principle because it does not take into consideration the fact that companies generate production risks also in terms of the size of their orders to suppliers."
With BRAC, Benetton said it also activated a further programme of support initiatives for 350 victims and their families, with a focus on those who had lost their only source of financial support.
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