To help address worker safety issues in the Bangladesh ready-made garment industry, Walmart became a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety in 2013. The Alliance concluded its five-year commitment on December 31, 2018, and over the last five years, we have seen significant progress. There is more work to be done, and we recognize that true reform requires many stakeholders, including the government, working together for change.

According to the Alliance’s Fifth Annual Report:

  • 93% of all remediation items have been completed, including 90% of potentially critical or life-threatening issues
  • 428 factories have completed Corrective Action Plans covering all material items
  • Nearly 1.6 million workers have been trained on initial fire safety, and 1.3 million workers have received refresher training
  • More than 1.5 million workers across 1,017 facilities have access to a 24-hour, confidential helpline to report safety and other job-related concerns
  • The Alliance provided wages for 6,676 displaced workers in facilities closed for remediation
  • 178 facilities were suspended due to lack of progress on corrective action plans
  • 181 factories have Worker Safety Committees to promote worker voice and training
  • No lives have been lost to fire, structural or electrical incidents in factories where the Alliance has led remediation

For more information on the Alliance’s accomplishments, refer to the Alliance’s Fifth Annual Report here.

More than 340 active facilities with Walmart participated in Alliance or the Accord on Fire and Building Safety remediation programs, with an overall 96% remediation progress. As part of our FY19 efforts, Responsible Sourcing associates participated in more than 200 visits to facilities undergoing remediation in Bangladesh and supported more than a dozen buying trips for business teams.

We are particularly encouraged by how training has promoted factory safety in Bangladesh. An independent assessment performed by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health found that Alliance training led to an improvement in factory workers’ knowledge and awareness of fire safety, that workers have a better understanding of fire hazards and their role in emergencies and evacuations, and that an overwhelming majority of workers liked the content and delivery of the trainings they received. Select pre- and post-training figures include:

  • Know how to react in case of an emergency: 61% before training, 88% after training
  • Know the basic components of a fire: 34% before training, 71% after training
  • Can correctly identify common fire safety hazards: 2% before training, 45% after training
  • Agree that fire drills should be organized during peak season: 37% before training, 84% after training
  • Feel unsafe in the factory in which they work most of the time: 25% before training, 6% after training
  • Feel it is their obligation to report unsafe conditions: 67% before training, 90% after training
  • Would talk to their supervisors about safety concerns: 75% before training, 94% after training

Although the Alliance has completed its five-year commitment, Walmart remains committed to worker safety in Bangladesh, and we are continuing to collaborate with the industry, NGOs, worker organizations and local governments to drive safer working conditions for the men and women in our supply chain. Walmart has joined Nirapon, an organization that will build on the Alliance’s work and help create a culture of safety in the Bangladesh ready-made garment industry. In addition, we are taking what we learned from the Alliance and applying it to other geographies facing similar challenges.

Impact Story: Capacity-Building Programs in Bangladesh

  • The Women in Factories Training Program was a five-year initiative by Walmart and the Walmart Foundation to work with NGOs in Bangladesh, India, China, Honduras and El Salvador to provide important life and work skills training to at least 60,000 women in the supply chain. The open-source curriculum, developed in partnership with CARE, an NGO dedicated to fighting global poverty, provides program participants with the fundamental life and work skills necessary to be successful in the workplace, at home and in their communities. More than 128,000 women in 156 factories received training through this program, exceeding the program goal of training 60,000 women in 150 factories.
  • Walmart contributed $1.6 million to the Institute of Sustainable Communities (ISC) to support the 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 environmental, health and workplace safety.