Retailers mixed response to factory fires

Following last month’s devastating factory fires in Bangladesh the fashion industry’s response has been mixed. Yet fast fashion giant, H&M, reaffirmed their commitment to fire safety. With a new human rights policy  too, has the company finally turned a corner?

Following last month’s devastating factory fires in Bangladesh, in which over 100 people died, serious questions are being asked about safety in overseas garment factories. According Ecouterre, US Labour Secretary, Hilda L.Solis, has called this latest tragedy a “call to action“. She compared it to a similar incident in New York in 1911, which served as the catalyst for tougher health and safety regulations and workers’ rights.

Western retailers using factories in Bangladesh have responded differently. Walmart rejected recent proposals that might have made their factories in the area safer. According to reports the reason for not implementing these changes was cost.

Meanwhile, H&M, the new kids on the block desperate to do better, have released a new human rights policy. It is built on the UN Guiding Principals of Business and Human Rights. They have also reaffirmed their commitment to fire safety awareness amongst suppliers and their employers in garment factories in Bangladesh.

But is a policy enough? How do we ensure these well meaning thoughts get implemented? 

Without regular, no-notice or secret auditing, a human rights and health and safety policy can not be guaranteed. We already know about discrepancies between official audits and workers’ personal testimonies. Maybe it’s time politicians in the UK stood up, like they are in the US, and demanded more from our retailers.


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