Apparel Sourcing Intelligence - Worldwide

Buyer policies vary

Britain’s Primark and Canada’s Loblaws (whose Joe Fresh brand was being made in Rana Plaza) have agreed on compensation programmes for Rana Plaza victims and their families: majority shareholdings in both are ultimately held by the same group of charitable foundations. The two companies were publicly critical of other businesses sourcing from factories in the building.

Primark “notes the fact that its supplier shared the building with those of other retailers,” it said. “We are fully aware of our responsibility. We urge these other retailers to come forward and offer assistance.” Loblaw CEO Galen Weston said that as many as 30 international apparel brands were having goods manufactured in the building and he was he’s troubled by the “deafening silence” of the others.

Benetton’s response on the other hand was almost up to Bangladeshi standards of reliability.

On April 24, after Bangladeshi labour groups said they had found labels of Benetton clothing in the rubble, Benetton claimed “none of the companies involved are suppliers to Benetton Group or any of its brands.”

It then said on April 29 that a “one-time order” was completed and shipped out from New Wave Style, one of the manufacturers in the building, but it was “several weeks prior” to the building’s collapse. On April 30, it changed its story again to a claim that Benetton said that one of its suppliers had “occasionally subcontracted” orders from one of the manufacturers in Rana Plaza.

But on May 3, the Wall Street Journal reported that during 2012, Benetton employees from India and Hong Kong began an assessment to ensure New Wave Style had the capacity to fulfil an order and deliver it on time, and that India’s Shai Exports carried out its own check, which purported to ensure compliance with labour laws and safety standards. In September, Benetton put through its first order with New Wave Style for 145,000 garments. Benetton then put in a second order in January for 40,000 pieces, according to the company. It was delivered at the end of March, just before the building collapse.

Two days later, Benetton CEO Biagio Chiarolanza came close to telling the truth, saying “This is such a tragedy that no one in the industry should feel above it Benetton will make funds available to the victims of the families as every member of our industry has a moral obligation to intervene in their support.” But still ducking any responsibility – and implying moral equivalence to honest and truthful buyers. Only on May 8 did he admit the company’s April 24 claim was simply untrue, saying “”The New Wave company, at the time of the tragic disaster, was not one of our suppliers, but one of our direct Indian suppliers had subcontracted two orders”.

Chiarolanza went on to claim that with 700 manufacturers, checking records was simply too difficult for the company to manage.