Walmart in 2011: We Won't Pay for Factory Safety
Declined to pay more in order for Bangladesh factories to improve
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2012 10:49 AM CST
Bangladeshis and firefighters battle a fire at a garment factory in the Savar neighborhood in Dhaka, Bangladesh, late Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012.   (AP Photo/Polash Khan)

(Newser) – Walmart could have helped make Bangladesh's garment factories safer, but it declined at a meeting in 2011, saying such a move would be too expensive. Details from the meeting are coming out now in the wake of the factory fire that killed 112 last month. More than a dozen retailers attended the Bangladesh meeting, which was intended to improve safety at the country's clothing factories, and there the companies discussed an agreement requiring all the retailers to pay prices high enough to allow factories to improve safety. But a Walmart director of ethical sources said his company wasn't willing to share that cost.

The meeting minutes include these comments from that director as well as a director from Gap, which also declined to sign: "Specifically to the issue of any corrections on electrical and fire safety, we are talking about 4,500 factories, and in most cases very extensive and costly modifications would need to be undertaken to some factories. It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments." A coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign who provided the minutes to Bloomberg calls Walmart's position "shocking." Half of Bangladesh's clothing factories do not currently meet legal safety requirements.

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Dec 6, 2012 7:24 AM CST
Palin: Drill baby, drill. Walmart: Burn baby, burn. Call it the Age of Ultimate Exploitation.
Dec 6, 2012 1:22 AM CST
Walmart is a case study in why commercialism as a government policy does not work. The logical step would be to pass a law that requires Walmart to buy only from factories who keep certain standards, if they want to do business in the US. If the US gave a shit, this would be a no brainer. Considering we can't even be bothered to tax companies that don't pay a living wage any longer, you'll never see such a law. Trying to pass the blame on to the people who are forced to either shop at Walmart or pay exorbitantly high prices for the same goods elsewhere is absurd. More importantly, though, it's pointless. People won't stop shopping at Walmart because, in many cases, they simply can't. There are whole swaths of areas in the south where you'd have to drive more than a hundred miles to buy something like kitchenware at anything but a Walmart. These people don't have the money to keep a car reliable, and can't afford $3/gal gas, and that's if they have the time to actually care about where they buy stuff after working their third job. Get real.
Dec 5, 2012 9:30 PM CST
This is a simple cost/benefit analysis. It simply costs less to handle the expenses of fires in countries where people will work for $40.00 a month than it does to bring those ancient and dilapidated factories up to safety standards. It's not complex. Burnt poor people cost less than factory improvement. It's just business. Not just WalMart: BUSINESS.