Global sourcing giant Li & Fung has reorganised its factory support services into a new business unit that will focus more intensely on improving factory and worker safety in the garment industry.

The move, Li & Fung says, is in reponse to a number of recent tragedies in the garment industry, and will also meet the ongoing needs of its global vendor base.

The new Vendor Support Services unit will be led by group chairman Dr William Fung.

It will also incorporate the company's existing range of support services to factories that include compliance, safety training and audits, trade credit services, as well as the handling of letters of credit, product liability insurance, fabric, trims and accessories procurement, product development and technical and operations support.

Additional services will include the provision of product-testing and logistics support to factories.

"We already offer services to the 15,000 factories in our vendor base to enhance their competitiveness, operational efficiency and ability to comply with ever-tougher health and safety requirements," noted Fung.

"As the leading sourcing company in the world, we feel our responsibility is to play an even bigger role in bringing about and speeding up systematic, positive change in the industry."

The expanded services come at a time when more garment production is moving into emerging economies and when credit for factory owners is tighter than ever, according to Li & Fung.

Last year saw the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory building in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,190 workers, and at least seven people were killed in a fire at a fabric-making facility in the country.

"While revenue generated from Vendor Support Services is a small part of the total
revenue, we view this new initiative as a key ingredient of our enhanced offering and an important component of our efforts to improve sustainability in the global garment industry," Fung added.

The initiative, the global sourcing giant says, will be an integral part of Li & Fung's new three-year business plan, which will be unveiled in March.

"After a solid finish to 2013, we are now turning our attention to the next three-year plan," said Li & Fung group president and CEO Bruce Rockowitz.