Almost a month after the deadly disaster in a textile factory in Bangladesh, the clothing giants are trying to get back to business. While most of them have taken lessons from the disaster, others are stubborn and refuse to change. Among them the parent company of brands such as Timberland, Wrangler and North Face.
VF remains active in factory with cracks
The American clothing giant VF still continues to use clothes from a factory in Bengal Gazipur, that has some serious problems with safety. Those problems have earlier caused Walmart to stop all cooperation with the “Liz Apparels” factory, after a thorough inspection that showed cracks in the walls and a below par fire safety were present in the factory.
"We are in daily contact with the facility and VF's leadership is closely monitoring the status in this facility and others in our Bangladesh supply chain," the company said in a statement to Reuters. VF insists the building has been approved for “normal operation. The cracks that developed here are not really dangerous, not dangerous for the structure.” The owner – obviously – confirms that analysis.
The decision of the American clothing giant raises questions from many people, certainly after what happened a month ago in Dhaka. There an eight-storey Rana Plaza factory collapsed, two days after an inspection showed big cracks in the walls. The owner then also said the building was structurally fine. The heavy toll: over a thousand deaths.
H&M rethinks production strategy
The actions of VF Corporation are in contrast with those of dozens of large chains, who recently signed the “Clean Clothes”-charter. One of them, Swedish Hennes & Mauritz, has already acknowledged it has “to rethink [its strategy] because it is terrible, what is happening in the country.” In an interview with the Financial times CEO Karl-Johan Persson says it is well possible H&M will move part of its production to Mexico, Brazil or even Africa.
This reaction however also has commercial reasons: “When that part of the world is growing, which it is, it becomes even more interesting to look at production in South America or Central America. So, we are exploring that opportunity. We are looking at Africa as well.”
Persson does not give Bangladesh the boot completely: if local suppliers are willing to follow the code of conduct of H&M, “we are willing to stay and we will reward the partners that are working best with these issues”. At the same time the CEO of H&M asks the government of Bangladesh to raise the minimum wage of 38 dollar per month (about 30 euro) and to adjust it annually. The last increase dates from 2010.