Friday, 13 December 2013

Retail buyers need to think about reducing the impact of factory fires

Only a few months ago I cautioned against retail buyers relaxing their guard due to the proposed agreement on minimum safety workers for Bangladesh factory workers.

Now we learn that factory fires are a weekly occurrence and there appears to be a culture among those responsible for the factories  'comes with the territory'. Would it be acceptable if 800 garment workers in the UK were dying as a result of factory fires.

Don't get me wrong, I am not the enemy of retail buyers but I really think they are in a position to make a difference through their procurement approach. My question is 'Are retail buyers including in their contracts and obligation to provide adequate fire escapes, fire alarms, first aid, fire fighting training and evacuation training?' if they are not they can't claim they are taking commitments to sustainable procurement as seriously as they could. If they are, what are their processes to ensure those commitments are honoured? 

Even if they buying firms don't view fire safety of their supply chain workers are their concern, perhaps they need to reflect on reputational risk and adverse impact on supply chain flows. 

Now let's accept that there are always a range of alternative ways of solving a problem, and the problem is that factory owners want to reduce their costs as opposed to investing in the 'option' of worker safety, equally they don't want to make investments which place their own factory at a disadvantage. That being the case why don't the UK retail buyers combine their influencing power and insist that those in government improve worker safety through stronger health and safety regulation and building regulations, and the effectiveness of the inspection regime? 

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