Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis have joined the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, but others including Walmart are taking a more independent approach.
Walmart says that it will get results faster acting under its own steam. For example it says it will conduct in-depth safety inspections at all the factories in Bangladesh that produce goods for the retailer, whereas the Accord only commits to inspecting 65 percent of each participating company’s production sites..
A spokesperson said: “While we agree with much of the proposal, the IndustriALL plan also introduces requirements, including governance and dispute resolution mechanisms, on supply chain matters that are appropriately left to retailers, suppliers and government, and are unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals.”
The unions reckon this individualist stance undermines the integrity of the Accord. UNI Global Union General Secretary, Philip Jennings said: “We are putting in place rules that mark the end of the race to the bottom in the global supply chain. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is out of step. By not signing up the Walmart brand sinks to a new low. Equally Gap’s refusal to join is a mistake that shoppers will not forget.”
The unions set a deadline to join by 15th May, and those who signed up in time include: H&M, Inditex, C&A, PVH, Tchibo, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Primark, , Mango, Carrefour, KiK, Helly Hansen, G-Star, Aldi, New Look, Mothercare, , Sainsbury’s, Benetton, Esprit, Next, Lidl, Abercrombie & Fitch, and John Lewis.
Signatories have committed to financing and implementing a joint fire and building safety programme. The Accord was founded by various NGOs and international unions IndustriALL and UNI Globall Union.
Its activities will be aligned to the National Action Plan on Fire Safety, and work collaboratively for example establishing common programmes, liaison and advisory structures.
The Accord is in response to several fatal incidents in the region. Some 1,100 people died when a building of textile factories, the Rana Plaza in Dhaka, collapsed, and on 8th May a factory fire killed at least eight.
More than 1,000 factories are now covered by the agreement which grants workers the right to refuse dangerous work.