National Retail Federation executives returning today from a visit to Bangladesh said a report issued by the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety reflects improvements in garment worker safety they saw during tours of factories and other facilities.
“The Alliance is doing important work to ensure the safety of Bangladeshi workers who make clothing worn by millions of Americans and other consumers around the world,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said. “We saw first-hand in the past few days that significant progress has been made to improve conditions at factories in Bangladesh and that work is on track to see more improvements in the future.”
“Worker safety is a top priority for U.S. retailers whether those workers are here in our stores or in a factory on the other side of the world,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “That’s why we went to Bangladesh to see for ourselves what is being done.”
French and Gold spent two days in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka last week as part of a week-long trip that also included factories, warehouses, consolidation centers and ports in Hong Kong, China and Vietnam. In Dhaka, the two met with the U.S. labor attaché, Alliance executives and executives of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. They also toured factories, including one of the first to complete the Alliance’s audit and compliance program, and visited a laboratory that conducts factory testing.
NRF helped bring together 26 apparel brands to form the Alliance in response to the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Dhaka that killed more than 1,100 people and injured more than 2,500.
The Alliance’s annual report, which was released in Dhaka on Thursday and is being released today in the United States, shows that as of July more than 500 of the 662 factories used by member companies had received the first of two major safety inspections conducted by the Alliance to create a safer environment for garment workers. The factories had completed between 20 and 80 percent of repairs and six had passed final inspection. The Alliance said it had completed work with the International Finance Corporation to provide $50 million in affordable, long-term loans to factory workers and another $18 million in assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development for upgrades to factories that might not be eligible for the IFC program.
The report also cited a University of Texas study that found knowledge and awareness on fire safety had improved among the workers after participating in the Alliance training program.
NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s campaign highlights the industry’s opportunities for life-long careers, how retailers strengthen communities, and the critical role that retail plays in driving innovation.