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.