Could Have Been There

Credit: A.M. Ahad, Associated Press, www.nbc.com

Credit: A.M. Ahad, Associated Press
http://www.nbc.com

An updated news release, April 26, 2013:

April 26, 2013 Update: Statement concerning Bangladesh Building Collapse
04/26/2013

We continue to express our condolences to those affected in Savar, Bangladesh and we are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our priorities are helping impacted employees and their families, and driving change to help prevent similar incidents like this in the future.

In Savar, we are aligning with other apparel retailers to support local efforts and provide aid and resources. We are sending senior representatives from Loblaw Companies’ sustainable supply chain team will be en-route soon to meet with local officials in Bangladesh to get a precise response on what caused this tragedy. We are committed to supporting local authorities in the rescue and care of affected families. When we have more details, we will share with you.

We are committed to finding an approach that ensures safe working conditions, drives lasting change in the industry and help prevents other tragedies. To that end, on Monday, April 29, Loblaws Inc., is joining other retailers and the Retail Council of Canada in an urgent meeting of its Responsible Trade Committee to discuss how to address this unfortunate situation and be a part of the solution. Loblaw has engaged with the Federal Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their assistance in our efforts. We’ve engaged with a number of organizations including Canada’s Maquila Solidarity Network and their executive director Kevin Thomas to gain input into potential solutions, as well as international audit companies.

Loblaws Inc. vendor standards are designed to ensure that products are manufactured in a socially responsible way, for a safe and sustainable work environment. Our audits align with those of industry around the world, but we recognize that these measures do not address the issue of building construction or integrity. Loblaw is committed to finding solutions to this situation by expanding the scope of our requirements to ensure the physical safety of workers producing our products.

We don’t have all the answers today, but we are taking steps to drive change, and to finding solutions to ensure safe working conditions at the production facilities with which we do business.

The original news release, two days earlier:

Statement from April 24, 2013

We are extremely saddened to learn of the collapse of a building complex in Bangladesh and our condolences go out to those affected by this tragedy. The large complex, housing a commercial bank and shopping mall, also included a factory that produced a small number of Joe Fresh apparel items for Loblaws Inc. We will be working with our vendor to understand how we may be able to assist them during this time.

Loblaws Inc. has vendor standards, which spell out the standard requirements of working with us to ensure that products are being manufactured in a socially responsible way, and specifically prohibiting child harassment and abuse or forced labour; and ensuring fair pay and benefits and compliance with applicable health and safety regulations. We audit against these standards on a regular basis.

We hope to hear more from the authorities about the status of this situation and we are committed to supporting them.
.

A revised news release, one day afterwards:

Statement from April 25, 2013

We continue to express our condolences to those affected by the tragedy in
Bangladesh and we are deeply saddened by this incident. We remain
persistent in our effort to reach our vendor in Bangladesh to understand
what caused this tragedy and to determine precisely how best to help the
employees and their families. We are committed to supporting local
authorities in the rescue and care of affected families. When we have more
details, we will share with you.

Loblaws Inc. has robust vendor standards designed to ensure that products
are manufactured in a socially responsible way, ensuring a safe and
sustainable work environment. We engage international auditing firms to
inspect against these standards. We will not work with vendors who do not
meet our standards.

Our audits align with those of industry around the world; however in light
of the recent tragedies in Bangladesh we recognize that these measures do
not address the issue of building construction or integrity. Loblaw is
committed to finding solutions to this situation by expanding the scope of
our requirements to ensure the physical safety of workers producing our
products. We want to improve and we want to find a solution that helps
stop these incidents from happening. We are in the process of reaching out
to industry groups like the Retail Council of Canada, other retailers in
Canada and abroad, as well as government in an effort to establish a
collective to undertake a review and address Bangladesh’s approach to
factory standards. We are aware of a number of similar efforts around the
globe and we plan on playing an active role. We don’t have all the answers
today. But we are committed to taking the necessary steps to drive change,
and find better solutions to ensure safe working conditions for production
facilities with which we do business.

All of this as the tragedy continues to unfold, as estimates of the dead continue to increase; up to 1,000 feared dead. The building collapsed on April 24. It is two days later, as the toll of the dead and injured continues to mount, that Loblaws announces that it will send senior executives to Bangladesh, to find out what happened. Also as the backlash against its clothing label starts to mount.

Have a client who is a retired executive of a Canadian multinational. Spent thirty years or so living in the Far East, managing the subsidiary.

Have a friend with a sibling owning a factory in the Far East. Competitors moving to other countries in the area, due to tariff advantages. Competitors actually moving, not subcontracting. Sibling decides not to move his own factory, because he doesn’t want to cause job losses in his city.

Difference between “Made in Bangladesh” and “Made in Bangladesh, in a factory co-owned and co-managed by Loblaws”. No “well, we audited them” separation. Greater direct responsibility means…greater direct responsibility.

Remembering the garment industry in Toronto; there once was one. Auditing the garment factory. Still no union, even in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Remember union organizer standing on the street corner, 8 a.m., handing leaflets to the workers, as they went in.

Remembering how many products say “union made”, to send a message. No workers forced to work in unsafe conditions.

Loblaws is unionized in Canada. There are garment worker unions in Bangladesh. Don’t know if Joe Fresh factory was unionized. Factory owners, even after the collapse, refuse to consider Bangladeshi and international union safety proposals.

Maybe hold dollars until “Made in Bangladesh, in factories co-owned and co-managed by Loblaws. Union Made”.

Assuming one looks at the label.

.

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About brucelarochelle

http://www.lmslawyers.com/bruce-la-rochelle
This entry was posted in Bangladesh, Business Commentary, Corporate Social Responsibility. Bookmark the permalink.

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