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Retail and Apparel Brands Move Forward With Separate Bangladesh Safety Pacts

Posted by Sheila Shayon on July 8, 2013 06:38 PM

A mostly European coalition of 70 leading clothing brands, retailers and trade unions backed by the International Labor Organization and the IndustriALL and UNI global trade unions has announced the next steps for their precendent-setting, five-year Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

In a joint statement, EU Commissioner Karel de Gucht, ILO Director General Guy Ryder, and Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dupi Moni "welcome(d) the fact that over 70 major fashion and retail brands sourcing RMG from Bangladesh have signed an Accord on Fire and Building Safety to coordinate their efforts to help improve safety in Bangladesh’s factories which supply them. In this context, they encourage other companies, including SMEs, to join the Accord expeditiously within their respective capacities.”

Their remarks were targeted at the brands that are holdouts from the European-dominated IndustriALL coalition. Indeed, only a handful of North American brands have signed the global accord, including PVH (owner of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and other apparel brands), Abercrombie & Fitch, Zac Posen and Sean John, as well as Canada's Loblaw, which owns the Joe Fresh fashion label now sold in JCPenney stores across America.

By signing the finalized plan, which was released on Monday, the signatories vow to submit a list of names and addresses of all Bangladeshi factories used by July 15. The list, which is expected to total near 1,000 factories, will be made public along with inspection reports.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Are Retailers Really Willing to Invest in Reform of Bangladesh Garment Industry?

Posted by Sheila Shayon on July 3, 2013 07:12 PM

Last week, the Obama administration revoked special trade status for Bangladesh in what is a growing tidal wave of international pressure for quicker and better implementation of garment factory safety standards following the Rana Plaza disaster that claimed more than 1,100 lives.

The turmoil over who is responsible for safety and inspection continues unabated, with countries, brands and governments often at odds over the best way forward.

“Inspecting Bangladesh’s garment factories is an acutely complicated task," notes The New York Times. “No government agency is certain of precisely how many such factories operate in Bangladesh, or where they are. Some inspectors are discovering that building plans filed with government agencies do not always match the actual buildings. Many factories built during the 1980s and 1990s have no architectural drawings at all.”Continue reading...

US Suspends Trade Privileges with Bangladesh, Pressuring Factories, Brands to Comply with Safety Standards

Posted by Sheila Shayon on June 27, 2013 05:38 PM

On Thursday, the Obama Administration announced that it would be suspending trade privileges extended to Bangladesh as a result of the country's neglect of worker's rights. 

"I have determined that it is appropriate to suspend Bangladesh's designation… because it is not taking steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights to workers in the country," President Obama wrote in a message to Congress. The decision, regarded widely as a stern warning to the nation, will effectively end special tax breaks on exports to the US that are meant to help developing economies. 

The decision was partially motivated by April's Rana Plaza building collapse, which killed over 1,100 garment factory workers as well as the Tazreen factory fire in late 2012 that killed over 100 workers.Continue reading...

china

The Week in China: Secret Luxury, Custom Nikes, McDonald's Rice Wraps and more

Posted by Abe Sauer on June 7, 2013 02:41 PM

China is the second largest economy in the world and every significant brand's future is impacted by its growth (or collapse)—but who's got the time?! Here's the week's reads that will make you look like a keen China observer in case you find yourself immersed in a cultural conversation.

This week: Nike WeChats... No-logo lux... BMW's Zhi Nuo... Disneyland... Gap... Xiaomi... First Lady Peng LiYuan's iPhone... Jackie Chan for Kirin... and more.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Uniqlo Rejects Bangladesh Safety Agreement as Worker Unrest Spreads

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 28, 2013 05:12 PM

Uniqlo, the fourth-largest retail brand in the world, has gone the way of Walmart and refused to sign the Bangladesh safety agreement, opting instead to monitor its factories on its own.

"We want to first focus on what we can do right now, on our own," Yukihiro Nitta, head of Fast Retailing's Corporate Social Responsibility group told the Wall Street Journal. He said the company also will hire a Japanese company to assess the soundness of its suppliers' factories in Bangladesh, noting that ultrasound and x-ray technology can be used to check for cracks in concrete and piping.

Most of the 30 companies who have signed, including Uniqlo’s rival H&M, are European. Meanwhile, American companies including Walmart, Gap, JCPenney, Sears and Target have all held out on the point that the agreement includes a legally-binding clause, one that they argue could hurt US companies more than their international counterparts. For Uniqlo, this isn’t the first time the company, owned by Japan’s Fast Retailing, has come under activist pressure. Earlier this year, the brand bowed to a cause to sign a detox pledge spearheaded by Greenpeace, in which the company agreed to stop releasing hazardous chemicals throughout its supply chain and products by 2020.Continue reading...

brand news

In the News: P&G, Google, AT&T and more

Posted by Dale Buss on May 24, 2013 09:25 AM

In the News

P&G CEO Bob McDonald retires from troubled tenure as predecessor A.G. Lafley comes back to the company to take the CEO post.

Google faces antitrust probe over dominance in online display ads.

AT&T imposes new wireless fee and adds iPhone to pre-paid GoPhone program.

Apple faces potential setback in e-books case.

Boy Scouts of America vote to allow gay scouts into its ranks. 

Campbell Soup's parent acquires Plum Organics.

Daimler and Ford strengthen technology ties.

Dodge banks on Fast & Furious 6 tie-in to rev flagging Dart sales.Continue reading...

brands under fire

US Brands Still Holding Out as Bangladesh Government Looks to Place Blame

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 23, 2013 01:54 PM

Almost one month to the day after the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,127 people, American retailers and their international counterparts remain at odds over the plan to improve labor conditions, with legal liability still at the top of US concerns.   

Gap, one of the largest American retailers implicated in industry accidents in Bangladesh has said in recent weeks that it was close to signing the proposed agreement, if only clauses regarding arbitration were removed. “In the United States, there’s maybe a bigger legal risk than there is in Europe,” said Gap CEO Glenn Murphy, according to The New York Times. “If we were to sign onto something that had unlimited legal liability and risk, I think our shareholders should care about that.” Calling the language of the agreement "vague and unclear," Gap, along with Walmart, Target, JCPenney, Sears and other major US retailers have bilked at signing the accord, despite the fact that over 30 global brands had signed on by the proposed May 15 deadline.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Bangladesh Victims Yet to See Compensation as Governments Pressure Compliance

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 21, 2013 12:54 PM

Fortunately, the issues brought to light by the recent horrors in Bangladesh are not disappearing from the headlines. Unfortunately, those who are culpable are not acting swiftly enough.

What little consensus has emerged from the rubble of a collapsed eight-story factory, which claimed over 1,120 lives, underscores the fact that public-private collaboration is vital to enact the sweeping reforms required for real change rather than corporate social responsibility campaigns. Major retailers including Walmart, Gap, JCPenney and Sears have yet to sign the proposed fire and safety agreements, while Walmart, like the wolf guarding the hen house, said it will monitor its 300-plus Bangladeshi suppliers itself. However, H&M, along with 30 other international retailers committed to the $3 billion fund to improve the safety of garment factories in Bangladesh.Continue reading...

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