Uniqlo Opens Bangladesh Stores Instead Of Joining Factory Safety Accord

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July 12, 2013

By Kevin Short

Popular retailer Uniqlo isn’t signing the Bangladesh safety accord. Instead the Japanese company announced last week the opening of two stores within the country that Uniqlo says brings socially responsible manufacturing to Bangladesh.

All clothing for the stores will be manufactured within the country, a strategy that Uniqlo says meets its “independent standards” for worker safety.

“We want to first focus on what we can do right now, on our own,” Yukihiro Nitta, head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Fast Retailing, Uniqlo’s parent company,told the Wall Street Journal. The company is the first global fashion retailer to open a store in Bangladesh.

Uniqlo has so far declined to sign the Bangladesh Safety accord that 80 other retailers have joined. In an emailed statement to the Huffington Post, Uniqlo explained that “at this time we are not pursuing this opportunity. We do look forward to possibly working together with outside companies at a future date.”

Clothing corporations around the world are reckoning with the safety of their supply chains following the collapse of a garment factory in April that killed 1,129.

Cathy Feingold, director of International Department at the AFL-CIO, said that plans for companies to independently monitor their factories would not suffice after the “the failures of two decades of privatized regulation of global supply chains.” The labor organizations spearheading the accord have focused their efforts on convincing European and American corporations to join, but they will amplify their pressure on Asian companies in the coming months.

“What we can do now is have our Japanese unions find the target companies in Japan and see what can be achieved there,” said Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, the labor group leading the Accord coalition.

Uniqlo has been manufacturing in Bangladesh since 2008, though the majority of its production takes place in China. Fast Retailing is pushing to become the world’s biggest clothing retailer by 2020. They are currently the world’s fourth-largest. It comes at a cost, though: from 2011 to 2012, Uniqlo’s reports of “severe violations” in its factories had increased from 19 to 34, and “highly unethical, serious offenses” increased from zero to seven.

15 Global Retailers Committed To Bangladesh Factory Safety Accord

PVH
PVH, the company that owns labels Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Izod labels, initially made a commitment to factory safety in March 2012 and reaffirmed its commitment after the Bangladesh factory collapse, according to a company press release. PVH has pledged $2.5 million to the accord, Bloomberg News reports.

Tchibo
German retailer Tchibo also signed on to the pact last year.
H&M

Swedish retailer H&M became the first company in the wake of the Bangladesh building collapse to sign the safety pact. The company said in a statement that it hoped the agreement would help lead to an “industry in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures.”

C&A

Just hours after H&M made their announcement to sign on to the pact, Dutch retailer C&A followed suit.

Inditex SA

Inditex SA, owner of the Zara chain, committed to the pact as well. A spokesperson told CNBC that “the accord has not come out yet, but as you know we have played a very active part in its development.”
Tesco

“For the multinational retailers like Tesco who source from Bangladesh, we must help it to change in a positive way, a way which sustains and improves the livelihoods of all those who work in the industry,” Kevin Grace, director of Tesco, wrote in a blog post about the British retailer’s decision to join the pact.

Benetton

After initially denying its ties to the collapsed Bangladesh factory only to admit later that itsclothes were indeed made there, Italian fashion brand Benetton committed to the pact on May 14, according to a company spokesperson.

El Corte Ingles
The Spanish department store group El Corte Ingles said their suppliers signed on to the pact, Scott Nova of the Worker Rights Consortium told The Huffington Post.
Next

Nova also confirmed that British retailer Next has signed on to the accord.
Primark

Primark, a British retailer that admitted some of its clothing was made at the collapsed factory, was also one of the first retailers to sign on to the pact.
Mango

Mango, which was one of the companies that sourced products from the fatal factory, agreed to the accord, a spokesperson told The Huffington Post.
Marks & Spencer

British retailer Marks & Spencer, which sources from 60 factories in Bangladesh according to the Chicago Tribune, committed to the accord on May 13.
Carrefour

The French retailer Carrefour announced on May 14 that it would sign the accord, according to Reuters.
Loblaw Companies
Loblaw Companies, the owner of Joe Fresh, committed to the accord on May 14 according to a statement emailed to The Huffington Post. The Canadian brand was manufacturing apparel at the Rana Plaza factory, Time reports.
Abercrombie & Fitch
Abercrombie & Fitch verbally agreed to the accord on May 15, a company spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost.