As part of our ‘After Rana Plaza‘ project we also wrote to a number of brands and asked the following questions:
- Has your company met its contribution commitment to the ILO administered fund to help the Rana Plaza victims? If the answer to this question is no, why is this the case?
- The working conditions at Rana Plaza and other RMG-factories in Bangladesh have put the focus on the lack of control and accountability in global supply chains. In the aftermath of the incident, has your company changed policies or implemented new measures to improve the level of control in your supply chain? What have you done to prevent a disaster like this from occurring again?
- Several international companies have set a positive example by leveraging their economic influence over suppliers. Through a compact or other incentive system they push their suppliers towards accepting higher standards of production. Would you also be willing to enter a compact with your suppliers to incentivize higher production standards, including better health and safety standards and the right for workers to organize locally to further their interests?
- In how far do you expect your suppliers to ensure that workers have the freedom to associate and to become trade union members? What do you do to ensure that these rights are enforced?
Here are the answers:
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to weigh in on your research. While we don’t disclose the nature of our supply chain operations or our supplier relationships, it is important to note that the factories located in Rana Plaza were never active suppliers for JCPenney private merchandise. It was only after the devastating collapse, did the company learn that one of the factories produced Joe Fresh products, a small portion of which was intended for JCPenney. While JCPenney had no insight into the development and sourcing of Joe Fresh apparel, we continue to work with other retailers and brands through the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety to better protect all those working in Bangladeshi garment factories.
Benetton Group did not have continuous relationships with any of the suppliers that operated inside the Rana Plaza building: nonetheless, the company has been in the forefront for assisting the victims and improving the conditions of the local RMG sector in the aftermath of the incident. This is why, immediately after the tragedy, Benetton Group was among the first companies to take action for the victims choosing to launch a programme in partnership with the non governmental organization BRAC. The programme has been supplying artificial limbs to amputated victims. In the long term, the programme is supporting survivors and the families of those who lost their only source of financial support, to improve their social conditions and economic sustainability.
The Code of Conduct of Benetton Group, which was in place and applying to all our business partners even at the time of the accident, includes strict provisions on Health and Safety in all the supply chains of our company. Regular audits implementing the Code of Conduct were then already in place and after the Rana Plaza accident have been integrated and reinforced through additional independent CSR audits and through our active participation in the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, whose inspections are performed on all our suppliers in Bangladesh.
We think that the proposal of a compact with suppliers can be truly effective and sustainable if it becomes part of common efforts of the textile/garment sector to improve higher production standards in its global supply chain.
Benetton Group Code of Conduct requires all our business partners – suppliers and their subsuppliers included – to permit freedom of association, organization and collective bargaining in a lawful and peaceful manner. All our business partners’ workers have the right to form or join associations or committees of their own choice and to bargain collectively. Our company does not tolerate disciplinary or discriminatory actions from our business partners against the workers who choose to peacefully and lawfully organize or join an association. We ensure that the Code of Conduct and the labour rights spelt in it are reinforced through regular CSR audits on our supply chain and through corrective actions if needed.
Adler Modemärkte AG
Adler Modemärkte AG has not made a contribution to the ILO administered compensation fund for Rana Plaza, because none of the companies located in this building have been a nominated supplier of Adler. Instead, the company made a voluntary donation for Rana Plaza victims and is still engaged in direct aid, organized by local agents in Dhaka.
Adler has had stable relationships to its suppliers in Bangladesh for many years. Through our own purchasing managers and our professional buying agency MGB (Metro Group Buying, Hong Kong) we apply close control of their activities. Nevertheless, the Rana Plaza crash has shown that there is a further need of examination and control, especially in building safety, including fire protection and electricity. Since MGB joined the ‘Accord’ agreement, Adler and its purchasing agents also prove fire safety, electrical installation and – as a direct consequence of the Rana Plaza crash – the construction quality of supplier buildings.
In the past too, long before any accidents happened in Bangladesh, Adler has collaborated exclusively with suppliers who applied the BSCI standards regarding important working conditions and social standards. Additionally, Adler uses each visit at a supplier company to emphasize the great impact of safety, social and working compliance on the prolongation of contracts.
Under the rules of BSCI there have been a number of rights and conditions which regulate the social and working life of employees among the companies being certified. The freedom of workers assembly is one of them. Beyond that, Adler has never restrained workers from joining a union nor encouraged the management of supplier companies to do so.
At Walmart, the safety of workers in our supply chain is very important to us.
While Walmart did not have any production at the Rana Plaza factory at the time of the tragedy, we are actively working to bring significant and sustainable reform to the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh. To date we have committed over $15 million, and spent over $13 million, to improve the safety of factories in Bangladesh and empower workers through safety training initiatives. These efforts have included:
Committing $5 million to inspecting all factories directly supplying Walmart in Bangladesh.
Contributing $5 million to be part of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.
Contributing $3 million to a Bangladesh humanitarian relief fund led by BRAC, one of the world’s largest development organizations. The fund will be used to support training and rehabilitation through BRAC and support relief efforts for the Rana Plaza tragedy.
Contributing $1.6 million to the newly-created Environmental, Health & Safety Academy for improved safety training.
Providing fire safety training for workers in factories in Bangladesh that produce goods for Walmart.
Continuing our Women in Factories Training Program, which is providing critical life skills training to women working in Bangladeshi garment factories.
We have led the industry by publicly disclosing the results of enhanced factory safety audits of every factory directly supplying Walmart in Bangladesh, which, through required remediation, have shown improvement in electrical and building safety.
As the last year has shown, collaboration is the key to driving real change. That’s why we are also collaborating with industry stakeholders through the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. The Alliance was established to improve worker safety conditions through greater collaboration, with members collectively contributing to a worker safety fund that is approximately $50 million, as well as providing access to around $100 million in low-cost capital for factory improvements, all to help factories make significant changes aimed at preventing tragedies before they happen.
For further questions on Bangladesh factory safety, we direct you to the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety website at http://www.bangladeshworkersafety.org
Since the tragic event, we have :
- immediately after the accident, taken initiatives on building controls and approvals. A procedure has now been taken over by the work of “the Accord”.
- actively taken part in the cooperation of the Danish agreement PARTNERSHIP FOR RESPONSIBLE GARMENTS AND TEXTILES PRODUCTION IN BANGLADESH.
- signed the international agreement – Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh – and we take active part in this Agreement and its implementation with IndustriAll and UNI Global Union
- joined the BSCI – the internationally recognized Business Social Compliance Initiative – and we are in the process of implementing BSCI rules and procedures.
- participated actively in the work under DIEH (Danish Ethical Trading Initiative)
We did not produce at the factory when it collapsed, but we had produced at the factory before.
We donated in sympathy, already in July 2013 – before the ILO-fund was established, a significant 6–figure sum to the victims of the disaster. Donations were given to companies, which are all on the ILO approved-list. The donation was a response to the many calls for urgent action, immediately after the tragic disaster, which was referred to the industry, hereunder PWT Group.
The donation was given partly to BGMEA, which immediately provided medical assistance to those affected, and partly to the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP), which subsequently has provided a significant, successful and proven efforts to rehabilitate the direct victims of the accident.
Right from the beginning we have been involved in the development of the voluntary trust funds and as one of the first companies we supported it with a donation of 500.000 USD. In June 2014 we doubled the amount because the trust fund was not sufficiently filled yet. KiK is one of the few companies making the amount of its donation transparent (http://www.ranaplaza-arrangement.org). The donating companies accomplished the commitment of contributing one half of the total amount of the required funds. The other half is to be supplied by the government as well as the local employers’ associations.
This tragic accident shows once again that only a common bond and a joint action of companies, government, trade unions, association organization and NGOs can bring about changes. The ACCORD is such a federation. KiK is one of the first signatories of this legally binding agreement for fire and building safety in Bangladesh. Up to now 186 international textile companies have joined the accord. As part of this arrangement the ACCORD members developed a program to reduce the risk of accidents at the production sites. On the basis of this program an independent safety inspection will be conducted in all of the participating companies’ production sites followed by remediation plans. Furthermore we have amended our sourcing strategies, e.g. broadened them to building safety aspects. For years we have been focused on developing long-term business relations with our suppliers to create sustainable improvements in the Bangladesh garment sector.
We aim for long-term partnerships that give our suppliers planning certainty as well as economic safety. We furthermore assist our suppliers in the organization and implementation of improvement activities. This joint action and the construction of a common understanding of working safety help initiating joint improvement processes.
To create a binding basis for all our commercial relationships, in 2006 we developed an international Code of Conduct (CoC). The KiK Code of Conduct requires compliance with minimum standards in the factories where our goods are produced. It includes a ban of child labour, a ban of forced labour or discrimination, maximum working hours, health and safety standards for the workplace, information and reporting standards for supliers as well as employees’ freedom of association.
The requirements and minimum standards described in our CoC are based on the ILO constitution and the relevant standards of the United Nations, ensuring that the labour guidelines we establish are valid worldwide. Compliance with our CoC is controlled by on-site visits through auditing companies as well as by our own employees.
Companies that did not reply:
Iconix (Lee Cooper), Auchan, Ascena Retail, KANZ – Kids Fashion Group, Robe di Kappa, Manifattura Corona, The Children’s Place, Güldenpfennig, Essenza Fashion, Cato Fashions, Mango, C&A Foundation
This project was not about pointing fingers or put blame on specific companies or brands. Its focus was to reveal the underlying issues in the industry the mainstream media coverage has neglected and develop some ideas for how working conditions and controls can be improved so a tragic event such as the Rana Plaza collapse can be avoided in the future. We have identified a few interesting avenues such as a supplier compact and new ways of consumer pressure and will seek to build on this with a view to developing more clear-cut proposals.
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