Responsible Sourcing

Our Commitment to the Workers of Bangladesh

At Walmart, we care deeply about the women and men in our supply chain, and we are passionate about their care and well-being. We are committed to significant and sustainable reform of the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh. And, we know that true reform requires many stakeholders, including the government, working together for change.

Responsible Sourcing

Walmart is a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance), comprised of 26 North American retailers and suppliers who joined together to develop and launch the Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative, a binding, five-year undertaking with the intent of improving safety in ready-made garment (RMG) factories in Bangladesh. To date, the Alliance has completed fire safety training for approximately one million Bangladesh factory workers and management. We believe the Alliance will help lead to significant fire and building safety improvements for factory workers in Bangladesh. 

In fall 2014, Senators Olympia Snowe and George Mitchell, co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), commended the progress of The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety since its inception in 2013. You can read a letter outlining their comments, here.

Walmart also has contributed many efforts toward improving worker safety in the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh. We worked with Bureau Veritas (BV), a world leader in assessment and certification services, to complete four phases of inspections for factories in Bangladesh that produce ready-made garments directly for Walmart.  The results of these inspections have been harmonized with Alliance activity, and these factories are now part of the Alliance process.

Building Capacity in Bangladesh

We believe that sustainable, long-lasting improvements in the global supply chain can be achieved in part through proactive programs that empower workers and build the capacity of factories and suppliers. Among the programs we have helped implement in Bangladesh:

  • The Women in Factories Training Program is a five-year initiative by Walmart and the Walmart Foundation to work with NGOs in India, Bangladesh, China and Central America to provide critical life and work skills training to at least 60,000 women in the supply chain. The curriculum, developed in partnership with CARE, provides women and men with the fundamental life and work skills necessary to be successful in the workplace, at home and in their communities.
  • Walmart made a donation to the Institute of Sustainable Communities (ISC) to support the newly created Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Academy in Bangladesh. Through the EHS Academy, more apparel manufacturers in Bangladesh will have access to high-quality, affordable and comprehensive training on fire safety and environment, health and workplace safety.
  • Our team at George, Asda’s and Walmart’s private-label clothing line, has worked with 17,000 workers in 34 factories in Bangladesh to implement the LEAN Manufacturing program. The LEAN program is designed to streamline production processes and invest in worker skills training.

Supporting the Victims of Rana Plaza

Our hearts go out to the victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy, both those families who lost loved ones and those workers who have been on a long road to recovery. Walmart believes in stepping up and helping, which is why we contributed $3 million to BRAC, a global NGO based in Bangladesh, to support those affected by Rana Plaza and other disasters - $1 million of this was contributed directly to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund with the remainder earmarked for continued support for BRAC's work to provide counseling and rehabilitation and a reserve emergency fund that can be used to respond rapidly to garment factory accidents. Recently, we took a portion of the reserve fund and gave it to BRAC to help nearly 100 victims of the Rana Plaza collapse pay for medical treatment, counseling and living expenses. 

While we did not have production at the Rana Plaza at the time of the building collapse, our contribution to BRAC's fund underlines our focus on positively impacting global supply chain practices and driving systemic improvement by collaborating with other stakeholders to improve the standards for workers across the industry, including our suppliers around the world who are expected to comply with our Standards for Suppliers. 

We will continue to invest our resources in proactive programs that will help enable factory owners to meet our standards and help prevent tragedies before they happen.


Building a safer infrastructure

For the past five years, Walmart's active participation has yielded incredible progress toward building a safer and more productive work environment for members of the Bangladesh garment industry. Here's a brief history of Walmart's involvement. 

Factory Assessments

Increasing Transparency in the Supply Chain

We recognize that no single organization or company can bring lasting change to the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh. True reform requires multiple stakeholders, including governments, to work together for change. We believe that transparency helps all stakeholders understand and address factory conditions.  

As part of this commitment, Bureau Veritas, a third-party firm, conducted in-depth electrical and structural safety assessments at Bangladesh factories that produce ready-made garments directly for Walmart. The results show factories have made substantial improvement over the past year, with electrical ratings climbing by more than 80 percent and building safety improvements by more than 60 percent. Walmart was the first company to publically share our initial factory safety assessments results; We have now completed all phases of assessments and have posted the results of our enhanced safety assessments in order to provide information to partners committed to real change.  

Factories are in the midst of the critically-important stage of remediation for building, electrical and fire safety. When factories are closed for remediation, the Alliance and factory owners are together providing full pay for up to four (4) months. 

Factory Remediation

There are several areas of major remediation that have taken place at many factories in Bangladesh, including upgrading of electrical systems, installation or upgrading fire hydrant system, installation of fire doors, construction of additional staircases and installing alarm systems.  

Walmart has also announced that we will provide support for up to $50 million in access to capital to factories in Bangladesh, including a loan facility that we developed in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank. We are excited to have this mechanism in place, and we look forward to receiving the loan requests to help improve factory conditions.

In addition to the loan capital, we also have launched a number of programs to support local suppliers and workers, including supporting fire safety training for factories through a $1.6 million contribution to the newly created Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) Academy.

We continue to work with stakeholders and factories to raise standards in the supply chain in Bangladesh. We continue to positively influence the global supply chain, by collaborating with other brands, retailers and stakeholders to improve the working conditions in the countries from which we source. 

Assessment Disclosures

One important component of The Alliance is the public release of building, fire and electrical inspection reports as well as periodic updates to corrective action plans for factories in the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh.  This level of transparency also supports the Bangladesh Government Commitment - in the National Action Plan - to release the inspection data of factories throughout Bangladesh.

The Alliance is committed to having all inspection reports posted on the Alliance website and the Government of Bangladesh website, and helping ensure they undergo a rigorous quality control process before they are released. The Alliance is working actively with each factory as well as the Government of Bangladesh to release reports as quickly as possible. Released inspection reports and corrective action plans can be viewed on the Alliance website.

Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety

Walmart is a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance), currently comprised of 26 retailers and suppliers, which works to help improve building, fire and electrical safety throughout Bangladesh.  Over the past year, the Alliance has:

  • Trained more than 1 million factory employees on basic fire safety
  • Piloted a helpline where workers can anonymously report safety or other job-related concerns
  • Provided, together with factory owners, wages for approximately 1,000 displaced workers
  • Created a Board labor Committee to focus exclusively on labor issues impacting workers’ lives. 

For more information, please read the Alliance’s in depth 18th Month Update, released on March 9, 2015.

Fire Safety

While we’re taking an overall global approach to safety, we also recognize there’s a need for heightened attention to fire-related risks in countries such as Bangladesh. Our plans include collaborating with other brands and retailers to drive industry-wide results. In the interim of a collaborative approach being clearly defined, we’ve implemented certain factory requirements to address the most serious concerns. In 2012, we completed our work with suppliers to phase out of facilities deemed to be at high risk for fire-related incidents because they met one or more of the below fire safety risk criteria. 

Additional safety requirements

All facilities that produce merchandise sold by Walmart must adhere to a set of minimum standards for fire and building safety. In addition to compliance with our global safety standards and compliance with local laws, Walmart will not permit production in facilities that have one or more of the following structural fire safety characteristics:

  • A residential building that has been converted into an industrial facility
  • Facilities in a multi-story building with a ground-floor marketplace or commercial shops on any floor
  • Facilities in a multi-story building shared with other enterprises under separate ownership
  • Facilities with a rooftop that is partially obstructed (must be 100% clear)
  • Facilities where there is a residence located within the building

Comprehensive Inspection 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 Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, we have collaborated with other brands to create and implement a training program to increase fire safety awareness among our suppliers and their employees in garment factories.  This Alliance training program has trained representatives from over 400 factories who returned to their factories to train more than 600,000 workers. In addition, Walmart has engaged Bureau Veritas to conduct fire safety training programs at more than 200 factories reaching an additional estimated 330,000 workers.

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.