Marks & Spencer has become the latest retailer to join the new Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord, which is intended to improve safety in the country's garment factories.

The retailer joins PVH, Tchibo, H&MInditex (which owns the Zara stores), Primark and Tesco in signing the agreement, which is co-ordinated by the UN's International Labour Organization (ILO).

"We have a proven track record in Bangladesh, we believe our approach works and all our suppliers must adhere to our strict ethical standards as a condition of working with us," said Krishan Hundal, director of sourcing at Marks & Spencer.

"This includes regular fire, health and safety checks and we only source from single occupancy factories. But we also recognise the need for a safer garment industry in Bangladesh and have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

"We will play our role alongside the ILO, other clothing brands and NGOs in developing it into an effective programme to deliver a better working environment across all 5,000 garment factories in Bangladesh."

The agreement follows a number of fatal factory incidents in Bangladesh, including the collapse of the Rana Plaza building over a fortnight ago, which has killed more than 1,000 people, and a fire at a factory last Wednesday (8 May), which killed eight. In November, a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory killed 114 people.

Gap has said it will join the Accord if the agreement on how disputes are resolved is modified.

In a statement yesterday (13 May), the company said its view continues to be that the right multi-sector partnership is the best way to lead to systemic lasting change in the country.

"We're pleased that an accord is within reach, and Gap Inc is ready to sign on today with a modification to a single area - how disputes are resolved. This proposal is on the table right now with the parties involved. With this single change, this global, historic agreement can move forward with a group of all retailers, not just those based in Europe," the retailer said.

The IndustriAll global union said that it is targeting Kik, Carrefour, and Next to sign the accord, ahead of a 15 May deadline.