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Wal-Mart Sets Own Plan to Monitor Safety in Bangladesh

Retailer plans to inspect and review all factories that produce goods for the company in the country and will publicly release the findings.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. unveiled its own plan on Tuesday to address the safety issues in Bangladesh’s garment industry.

The retailer said it will intensify safety inspections at garment factories in Bangladesh and will also be more transparent with its findings. The company said it will conduct in-depth safety inspections at all of the 279 factories in Bangladesh that produce goods for the company and complete all reviews within six months. It will also publicly release the names and inspection information on all of its factories in Bangladesh.

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The company said it will be contracting with Bureau Veritas to provide fire safety training to every worker in all of its supplier factories. In addition, Wal-Mart began posting on its Web site a preliminary list of “failed factories” in Bangladesh that are no longer allowed to produce for the company. As it does its inspections, it will add a fuller list of “failed factories” in coming weeks.

“Transparency is vital to make progress in improving factory conditions, and by disclosing this information, government, workers, nongovernmental agencies and companies can benefit from this work,” said Rajan Kamalanathan, vice president of Ethical Sourcing for Wal-Mart.

The retailer said it has retained engineers and other trained professionals to perform inspections at its own cost and it will immediately order production stopped at facilities where safety issues are identified and notify the government authorities of the issues, and require remediation.

“If we identify issues that cause us to believe that people’s lives are in danger, we will take swift action,” said Kamalanathan. “Preventing the kinds of tragedies that have recently taken place in Bangladesh will only happen if all stakeholders across the board set clear parameters and take action to drive real safety and compliance improvements.”

In addition, Wal-Mart said it is contributing $600,000 towards a project that “empowers workers to have a voice in the solution.” To that end, Wal-Mart said it will partner with LaborVoices, a company it said “communicates proactively and directly with workers to identify and share concerns inside of factories.” The outreach to workers will be rolled out at all of Wal-Mart’s 279 supplier factories in Bangladesh.