'Joe Fresh' maker Loblaw to stay in Bangladesh: chairman

Thu May 2, 2013 2:19pm EDT
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By Alastair Sharp and Solarina Ho

TORONTO (Reuters) - Loblaw Cos Ltd (L.TO: Quote), Canada's largest grocer, will continue to produce clothing in Bangladesh after a deadly textile factory collapse on April 24, but promised to improve the facilities it uses there, Executive Chairman Galen Weston said on Thursday.

"I am deeply troubled. I am troubled that despite a clear commitment to the highest standards of ethical sourcing, our company can still be part of such an unspeakable tragedy," Weston told reporters ahead of an annual meeting of Loblaw, the company behind the discount clothing brand, Joe Fresh.

More than 400 factory workers were killed after an illegally built building, Rana Plaza, which housed several garment factories, collapsed last week in Savar, a commercial suburb of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Some of Loblaw's Joe Fresh apparel was made in Rana Plaza.

Ahead of the building's collapse, Walt Disney Co (DIS.N: Quote) said in March it would no longer allow its branded products to be made in five countries, including Bangladesh, in an effort to ensure production in safe conditions.

Loblaw said it would remain in Bangladesh because well-run factories can help lift people out of poverty in developing countries. The company said it currently produces in 47 facilities in Bangladesh.

"I believe we can do more good and drive lasting change by staying in Bangladesh, and we are committed to doing that," said Joe Mimran, the designer behind the popular Joe Fresh brand.

Loblaw promised to start a relief fund for victims and their families and said it expected other apparel manufacturers to contribute to the fund.   Continued...

Loblaw Companies Limited Executive Chairman Galen G. Weston speaks during the annual general meeting of shareholders in Toronto May 3, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Cassese