Wal-Mart funds supplier training after Bangladesh fire

Tue Apr 9, 2013 1:52pm EDT
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By Jessica Wohl

(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote), the world's largest retailer, is making its biggest push yet to try to improve conditions at factories that produce its clothing after a fire at a Bangladesh factory last year killed 112 people.

The company also said Tuesday it would donate $1.6 million to help start a new Bangladesh training academy, and outlined its efforts to regain control over the complex and far-flung web of factories that make its products.

"With the focus that is there at the moment on fire safety, everyone is keen to make sure that they get the right level of controls in place to protect the workers," Rajan Kamalanathan, Wal-Mart's vice president of ethical sourcing, said in an interview. "There is a need for that."

Wal-Mart says it was unaware that its private-label clothing was being made at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh, which went up in flames in November, killing 112 people and injuring at least 150. Bangladeshi authorities said the facility was not safe for use, and Wal-Mart said it had not authorized anyone to make its garments there.

The fire gave rise to criticism that Wal-Mart should have been more aware of its supply chain. Since the fire, Wal-Mart has been taking a harder look at what it can do to monitor safety at the low-cost factories that produce its goods.

While products for other companies, such as Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O: Quote), were also being made at Tazreen, the biggest push for safety improvements has been on Wal-Mart.

Disney-branded products were also found in the remains of the factory following the fire, but Walt Disney Co (DIS.N: Quote) said its records showed that none of its authorized licensees had manufactured Disney-branded products there.


Clothes printed with Disney characters are seen among debris in the Tazreen Fashions garment factory, where 112 workers died in a devastating fire last month, in Savar November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj