US: Worker safety pacts "not part" of Ralph Lauren strategy
Ralph Lauren says it sources product from 15 factories in Bangladesh
Luxury apparel giant Ralph Lauren Corporation has said becoming a member of one of two groups working to improve safety and working conditions in Bangladesh's textile industry is "not part" of its strategy.
More than 170 mostly-European brands and retailers have signed the legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, including Zara owner Inditex, Marks & Spencer and H&M, while members of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety include JC Penney, Macy's and Target Corporation.
According to local press reports, activists rallied outside Ralph Lauren's annual investor meeting last week, calling for the group to sign the Accord more than a year after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Dhaka, which killed more than 1,100 people.
But in a statement to just-style today (11 August), a spokesperson for Ralph Lauren said: "Our membership to either organisation is not part of our strategy."
"Ralph Lauren conducts its business adhering to a high level of ethical standards. We take very seriously our responsibility for ensuring a safe and healthy working environment for the people who manufacture our products."
The company added that it only works with factories that uphold its "high standards of labour practices", and works closely with its global partners to ensure they are given extensive training and monitoring for all safety and worker protection efforts.
Ralph Lauren sources product from 15 factories in Bangladesh - mostly through third party agents - with this representing less than 3% of its annual volume. "Bangladesh has not been and is not a significant part of our overall sourcing strategy," the company noted.
In 2012, the retailer increased its audit scope to include fire and building safety, as well as social compliance to make sure the challenges facing its Bangladesh suppliers are addressed and improved. Worker surveys have also been developed to solicit input directly from the workers.
Ralph Lauren said it continues to participate in the Better Work programmes and will utilise Better Work in Bangladesh once it becomes available.
"Given the level of monitoring and review that is already being conducted in our suppliers' Bangladesh facilities by Ralph Lauren or members of the Alliance and Accord, and our future involvement in the Bangladesh Better Work programme, we fully support our suppliers' efforts to meet the factories' obligations in our programme and those of the Accord and the Alliance," the group added.
The Accord and Alliance both issued their first annual reports last month, providing an update on the work carried out on improving safety and working conditions in the country to date. Click on the following link for further insight: Alliance and Accord publish annual reports.
An interactive databank with intelligence on the major apparel sourcing countries
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