Fire Safety in Bangladesh
At Walmart, our goal is to positively impact global supply chain practices both by raising our own standards and by partnering with other stakeholders to improve the standards for workers across the industry. This is why we are focused on investing our resources in proactive programs that will address fire safety in the garment and textile industry in Bangladesh and prevent fires before they happen.
Currently, we partner with a host of companies that source in Bangladesh to address fire safety in the local garment and textile industry with an emphasis on root cause analysis and proactive, preventive action. For example, in 2011, through our participation in the Bangladesh Buyers Forum, we worked with others to create an educational film program with the aim to increase fire safety awareness amongst our suppliers and their employees in garment factories in Bangladesh. Reaching out to more than 3,000 exporting garment factories in Bangladesh, training for factory management on the use of the films as educational tools is being provided by the BGMEA and BKMEA.
Fire safety is a critically important challenge facing the garment and textile industry in Bangladesh, and at Walmart we are focused on developing and implementing proactive programs to raise awareness of fire safety and increase prevention. We partner with a wide range of organizations and companies to address fire safety in Bangladesh with an emphasis on establishing industry-leading standards and giving suppliers the support they need to meet them.
Comprehensive Audit Program
Our audit program is designed to identify risks and provide information that can help factories take comprehensive preventative measures to prevent fires. In 2010, we conducted an evaluation focused on fire safety in factories in Bangladesh. Factories that fell under the following high risk categories were asked to phase out production to safer facilities:
- Residential buildings converted to factories
- Multi-story buildings located in market areas
- Factories in multi-story industrial buildings shared with other factories
In 2012, we strengthened our fire safety standards in Bangladesh, and factories are audited regularly to verify compliance. Examples of these standards include conducting regular fire drills, ensuring adequate number of exit routes and mandating fire safety training to all levels of factory management. When factories do not meet these standards and corrective action does not occur, Walmart terminates the relationship. Since 2010, Walmart has inactivated 94 factories in Bangladesh due to fire safety issues. A further 23 factories have moved to safer buildings and locations.
Fire Safety Training Programs
Walmart has been working across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education in Bangladesh. Through our participation in the Bangladesh Buyers Forum, Walmart has collaborated with 18 other brands to create a training program to increase fire safety awareness among our suppliers and their employees in garment factories. With an expected reach to over 3,000 exporting garment factories in Bangladesh, the BGMEA and BKMEA are providing training for factory management on the use of the films as educational tools.
Ongoing Stakeholder Engagement
Fire safety is an industry-wide challenge in Bangladesh and as a result we actively work with a variety of stakeholders to raise awareness of fire safety and establish best practices for fire prevention. For example, Walmart is working with the Bangladesh Manufacturers and Exporters Association to reinforce the critical need for improved fire safety, and we are also working with the government of Bangladesh to highlight effective steps that can be taken by the industry as a whole toward improved fire safety.
We regularly meet with NGOs, brands and other stakeholders to discuss multi-stakeholders efforts, and last year we organized a supply chain meeting on fire safety that was attended by over 150 suppliers in Bangladesh. Continued engagement is critical to verify that reliable, proactive measures are in place to reduce the chance of factory fires. Among other engagements, we are currently in discussions regarding fire safety with several leading retailers and various brands who are participating in the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP) with the goal of raising fire safety standards across the industry.
For more information on our fire safety initiatives in Bangladesh, please see our most recent Global Responsibility Report.