The UK government is putting pressure on clothing retailers that source from Bangladesh to improve the safety of their supply chains in the country. 

Development secretary Justine Greening has written to the CEOs of approximately 20 retailers to discuss how the Department for International Development (DFID) can work with them on the issue.

"DFID will work with companies to see how we can take the next step, whether it's signing up to ethical trading standards or going the extra mile in ensuring responsible business practices," said Greening.

The department said many high profile companies including Tesco, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer have signed up to the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) code supported by DFID, while others have yet to do so.

A series of deadly accidents in the country has killed more than 1,500 apparel workers in recent months. The collapse of the Rana Plaza building outside Dhaka at the end of April killed over 1,100 workers, while a fire at the Tazreen Fashion Factory at the end of November last year killed more than 110 people.

The letter comes ahead of a visit to Bangladesh by minister of state Alan Duncan, which will include talks with the Bangladeshi government on how the UK can support improvement in building standards through technical assistance. Duncan will also meet with international buyers based in Dhaka.

"The UK government is talking to the Bangladesh government about helping to improve building regulations, but there is more we can do. We want to work with businesses to keep up the momentum for change," a spokesperson told just-style.