Wesfarmers drags its feet on factory worker protection

The horrendous fire in April in Bangladesh drew the world’s attention to issues facing workers within Bangladesh’s garment industry. This led to the IndustriALL global union creating a safety accord on fire and building safety in Bangladesh.

As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald today, Wesfarmers  (ASX: WES) owned Kmart and Target have both signed the accord. Coles, also owned by Wesfarmers, has not signed as it is believed to be ceasing sourcing supplies from Bangladesh. Meanwhile, neither Woolworths (ASX: WOW) nor its Big W chain have signed the accord, although a spokesperson is believed to have said the company intends to.

Rivers, a privately owned retailer that is also believed to use Bangladesh factories, has so far refused to sign the accord. Rivers also refused to speak with the ABC’s Four Corners program recently when it ran a story on the garment industry. Other listed retailers such as Premier Investments (ASX: PMV), which owns a number of retail brands including Just Jeans and Jay Jays, and Specialty Fashion Group (ASX: SFH), which owns the Millers and Katies brands amongst others, have so far remained coy on whether they source garments from Bangladesh.

Given the potential for customer backlash surrounding the issue of ‘ethical sourcing’, companies need to not only be careful in their actions but they also have a duty to keep investors fully informed.

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Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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