Faith-Based and Socially Responsible Investors Urge U.S. Retailers to Back Bangladesh Accord



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People and rescuers gather after an eight-story building housing several garment factories collapsed in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, April 24, 2013.The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a group of socially responsible investors of which the Oblates are active members, has asked US retailers to be part of the Bangladesh Fire and Safety initiative, a global accord that promotes the safety of garment workers that would be legally enforceable. The initiative was proposed after more than 1,100 workers died in a building collapse on the outskirts of Dhaka on April 24. The collapsed building housed garment factories that supplied to several Western retailers.

At least 14 North American retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), Macy’s Inc (M.N), Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O), JC Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) and Gap Inc (GPS.N) have declined to sign the accord.

They have said the accord gives labour unions too much control over ensuring workplace safety and have proposed the alternative “Safer Factory Initiative”.

ICCR, which was part of the Divestment from South Africa campaign in protest against Apartheid, said the alternative plan could dilute the impact of the accord and may not be legally enforceable.

Retailers such as Zara parent Inditex S.A. (ITX.MC), H&M (HMb.ST), PVH Corp (PVH.N) and Britain’s Tesco Plc (TSCO.L) have supported the Bangladesh fire and safety initiative.