WASHINGTON — Gap Inc. Tuesday unveiled a comprehensive initiative aimed at improving building and fire safety standards in apparel factories in Bangladesh.
Gap said it will implement a four-part comprehensive plan that includes the launch of a worker support program that provides up to $2 million to apparel employees who work at some of Gap’s long-standing, high-volume third-party apparel contractors but may be displaced from work because of fire safety remediation, and coordination with a “chief fire safety inspector” to conduct inspections, develop formal remediation plans and create accountability. It also provides vendors “accelerated access” to up to $20 million in capital for safety improvements and calls for ongoing engagement with the governments of Bangladesh and the U.S. and the International Labor Organization.
“We believe the time has come to take action, and hope others in our industry will step forward with similar plans that will significantly improve fire safety in the apparel factories in Bangladesh,” Bobbi Silten, senior vice president of global responsibility for Gap, said.
The move comes two years after fires swept through two separate garment factories in Bangladesh, killing more than 50 workers and prompting initial action among groups inside and outside of industry and various governments. It also comes in the wake of the more recent tragic fire in Pakistan that killed nearly 300 people last month and shined a spotlight on poor working conditions in developing countries where the majority of apparel sold in the U.S. is made.
Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, said Gap failed to establish effective programs such as those set up by PVH Corp. and Tchibo, which he praised. “Instead, Gap announces a unilateral initiative with none of the elements that would make a program effective: no binding commitments, no transparency, no independence, no involvement of workers’ representatives,” he said.