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H&M leads efforts to improve factory safety in Bangladesh

Published: Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:45 a.m. MDT

The advertisement that pushed H&M to commit to improving factory conditions (AVAAZ.org) The advertisement that pushed H&M to commit to improving factory conditions (AVAAZ.org)

Following the collapse of the Rana Plaza Building, a garment factory in Bangladesh, Swedish retailer H&M announced plans to improve safety conditions in factories that supply its clothing, the New York Times reported.

Although H&M was the first company to make this pledge, other major European retailers, including Carrefour, Marks & Spencer and Inditex, parent of the huge Zara brand, are following its lead. It's "setting the stage for an industry-wide collaboration to improve factory safety. The Bangladeshi government also vowed to upgrade safety standards and revise labor laws to allow unions to form, after a multitude of earlier pledges went largely unfilled," the New York Times reported.

The parties have 45 days to work out the details of how they will improve conditions in garment factories. While the cost is unclear, the Times said there will be limits. "For the biggest companies, like H&M, the annual contribution for the first five years will be capped at 500,000 euros ($640,000). Smaller companies would pay less."

H&M's decision to act on this issue was influenced by an ad campaign in Sweden that "paired a smiling photo of the chief executive of H&M … the largest buyer of clothes from Bangladesh, with a picture of an anguished woman at the Rana Plaza rubble," the New York Times reported. The headline read, “Enough Fashion Victims?”

The fact that workers in the Rana Plaza building did not produce clothes for H&M does not matter, according to Alex Wilks, the campaign director of Avaaz, the global advocacy group that created the ad. “Our feeling was this is a really tough topic. Lots of people lost their lives, so it’s worth escalating the discussions,” he told the New York Times.

mwhite@deseretnews.com

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