Gap, Walmart Dodge Bangladesh Safety Plan

Walmart says its own voluntary plan is better, faster

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 15, 2013 4:31 AM CDT

(Newser) – Major European retailers are lining up to sign a Bangladesh safety plan aimed at preventing disasters like Rana Plaza, but American companies, including the Gap and Walmart, are backing away. Walmart—which blames a "rogue employee" for an order for its clothes found in the rubble of the building collapse—says it has its own safety plan for the 279 factories it uses in Bangladesh, and it will quickly deliver results as good as or better than the European plan, the New York Times reports. Walmart plans to audit factories for safety and remove them from its suppliers list if hazards are found.

But while the European plan is legally binding, Walmart's is voluntary, and experts say such plans have a poor record for delivering results. "Without the legally binding contract that the European retailers have signed, it's just putting lipstick on a pig," a sociology professor who has been a vocal critic of sweatshops tells the Wall Street Journal. The Gap, meanwhile, says it won't sign the European plan unless language is removed that it fears could make it liable in US courts for safety failures at Bangladesh factories. The only American firm to have signed the plan so far is PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.

Walmart's Faded Glory label is seen on a piece of clothing found after a garment factory blaze killed 112 workers in Bangladesh last year.
Walmart's Faded Glory label is seen on a piece of clothing found after a garment factory blaze killed 112 workers in Bangladesh last year.   (AP Photo/Ashraful Alam Tito)
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