By  on August 14, 2014

WASHINGTON — VF Corp., a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, said Thursday it is increasing its own funding commitment to $17 million to help improve working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment industry.

The company has been active on the ground in Bangladesh, as a corporation and as part of the alliance, to improve safety and working conditions in Bangladesh in the wake of two factory tragedies in the Asian nation that claimed more than 1,240 lives.

The tragedies galvanized the global fashion industry, labor groups, the U.S. and Bangladesh governments and international non-governmental organizations around initiatives to improve fire, electrical and building safety and worker rights in the country.

In addition to VF, the alliance is led by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Gap Inc., and includes 22 other companies that have committed to a five-year plan to help make Bangladesh’s garment industry safer.

A VF spokesman said the company is making a new $10 million funding commitment on top of a total of $7 million that it disclosed to WWD in an interview in March. Company executives said at the time that VF contributed $5 million to a $50 million Worker Safety Fund set up with the 26 alliance member companies to provide training and worker-empowerment tools. Another $1.5 million was invested to establish a compliance office in Dhaka, employing about 15 people.

The VF spokesman said Thursday that the company plans to reveal more details about the new $10 million in funding in coming weeks.

“We are absolutely committed to Bangladesh,” he said. “There is a lot of work to do in Bangladesh and we are doing what we need to continue to do to keep the workers safe.”

The alliance marked its one-year anniversary last month. In its first annual report, the group pointed to several milestones, including inspection of all 587 factories used by its member companies, providing fire and building safety to one million garment workers in Bangladesh, the partial or full closure of 10 structurally unsafe factories based on its recommendation, providing compensation payments to 1,000 displaced workers while extending the payment of wages to four months from two months, and making $100 million available in low-cost loans to factory owners for improvements.

A separate initiative, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, has 180 member companies, including H&M, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, Primark and C&A, and has made a goal of inspecting the 1,500 factories it encompasses in Bangladesh by the end of next month.

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