Blog: Bangladesh safety plans leap forward
Leonie Barrie | 20 May 2013
Some of the largest retailers and brands sourcing apparel from Bangladesh - including H&M, Primark, C&A, Tesco and Inditex (operator of the Zara stores) - last week committed to support a new Accord on Fire and Building Safety, intended to improve safety in the country's clothing factories.
The five-year legally-binding pact agrees to independent safety inspections on Bangladeshi suppliers, mandatory repairs and renovations, and an obligation by signatory companies to underwrite the cost of safety upgrades. Firms will fund the accord up to a maximum $500,000 per year - and to incentivise suppliers to carry out any reforms, they commit to source in Bangladesh for at least two years.
It also became clear that there was a wide transatlantic divide on Bangladesh factory safety. While European firms favoured the new accord, a coalition of North American retailers has gone its own way with the Safer Factories Initiative. While full details have yet to be revealed, this scheme is said to offer a long-term solution - as well as flexibility to "respond to an ever-changing environment."
Retailer Marks & Spencer, meanwhile, is set to shake up its supplier base as part of plans to turn around its fortunes in women's wear through a focus on quality and style. The moves, revealed at the launch of the retailer's highly anticipated autumn/winter collection, will see the company reduce the number of suppliers it uses by 10%.
And changes are also underway at US department store retailer JC Penney, where weak sales, clearance deals and promotions have led to losses more than doubling during the first quarter. Mike Ullman, the man who has returned to turn the retailer around following the departure of Ron Johnson last month, has outlined the first of his plans to improve the ailing business.
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