How are Canadian companies addressing safety risks in Bangladesh apparel factories?
Vancouver, BC, April 21, 2015–Two years after the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh collapsed, taking the lives of more than 1,100 workers and injured thousands more, a Canadian responsible investment organization has found that some Canadian apparel companies are still not participating in industry safety initiatives in Bangladesh.
“No company is immune from the risk of yet another terrible disaster occurring in a Bangladeshi supplier factory, especially for companies that are not taking part in either inspection program,” says the report by the Shareholder Association for Research and Education. SHARE engages with publicly-traded companies on environmental, social and governance issues on behalf of Canadian institutional investors with more than $14 billion in assets under management.
Two broad-based inspection and remediation initiatives are currently operating in Bangladesh, including the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (with over 200 company members) and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (with 26 company members). The two initiatives are currently conducting inspections and working with contracted suppliers to fix structural flaws and improve fire safety measures. According to SHARE, over 50,000 safety issues have been identified in the approximately 1,250 factories inspected by the Accord to date, and nineteen factories have been marked for shut down due to imminent safety threats.
Loblaw Companies, owners of Joe Fresh, are members of the Accord, while Canadian Tire, HBC and Sears are part of the Alliance. Reitmans and Lululemon, however, are not part of either initiative.
SHARE notes that “poor management of labour and environmental risks in global supply chains can have financial impacts on sales here in Canada, and on the company’s longer term value for investors.”
“Given that the risk of large-scale factory disasters in Bangladesh was well-known but not addressed by standard company supplier audits prior to Rana Plaza, we’re skeptical about companies that still claim their internal supplier auditing programs are enough to address these risks,” said Kevin Thomas, Director of Shareholder Engagement at SHARE. “If your company uses factories in Bangladesh, you either have to be part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.”
The full report is available here:
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Kevin Thomas, Director of Shareholder Engagement