Blog: Leonie BarrieEurope and US make headway on safety pacts

Leonie Barrie | 16 July 2013

Eight weeks after it was revealed that apparel brands and retailers in Europe and North America were heading in different directions in their efforts to improve safety at garment factories in Bangladesh, major developments have emerged from both sides.

The group of 70 retailers and brands that signed up to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh have agreed to inspect all of their supplier factories in the country within the next nine months.

And in North America, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety - led by Wal-Mart and Gap - has set out details of its new Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative, a "historic" five-year pact.

But how do the two separate safety pacts measure up? Despite the similarities between the schemes there are a number of differences, including their legal structure, union involvement, and long-term commitment to continue sourcing from Bangladesh. And by limiting inspection programmes to main suppliers only, are their efforts doomed to fail?

Elsewhere, renewed calls are being made for a global ban on the practice of sandblasting denim jeans, after research by labour rights groups found the finishing process is still widespread in China.

And sporting goods firm Adidas has calculated that it produced 1m fewer physical samples over the past three years by using virtual 3D technology to create and share designs.

There was also good news in the US, where same-store sales at apparel retailers continued on an upward trajectory last month. June results saw the biggest gains since January, on the back of an improving labour market, better macroeconomic conditions, falling fuel prices, warmer weather and rising house prices.

But UK retailer Marks & Spencer blamed poor weather and promotions after recording its eighth consecutive quarterly decline in like-for-like clothing and general merchandise sales.


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