A coalition of global investors representing $2.5trn (€2.3trn) in assets has written to apparel and retail companies calling for disclosure of how they are working to safeguard workers in Bangladesh factories.
The plea, on the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in which 1,100 workers died, has gone out to firms that are members of the industry bodies set up in the wake of the disaster, the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety (Accord) and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance).
It has been spearheaded by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), the US body with 300 member organizations with over $100bn in assets.
The investors see the delay to investments in safety such as sprinkler systems as human rights risks.
The investors are also calling on companies to support the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund to support the victims and their families. At the beginning of the week the Fund was $6m short of the $30m needed to provide for these families. Since then, several companies have made pledges to the fund, the ICCR said.
Investors called on all companies sourcing from Bangladesh to make a donation to the fund in time for the anniversary.
And the investors are also asking companies to disclose progress on the setting up of worker/management safety and health committees, a new legal requirement, though the government has yet to release the implementing regulations, rules and procedures that cover the committees.“Worker health and safety is a material issue for investors,” said Adam Kanzer of Domini Social Investments and a leader in the ICCR-led Bangladesh Investor Initiative. “When workers do not have an effective voice they are made vulnerable, and Rana Plaza has made it clear that their vulnerability creates risks for all of us.
“Investors take a long-term view; we are sticking to this issue and will continue to raise questions, press companies and assess progress until factories are sustainable and safe. We must work to ensure that our investment returns are built on a foundation of equity.” Link
Companies targeted (selected):
J.C. Penney Company Inc.
Sears Holdings Corporation
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Abercrombie & Fitch
H & M
Marks & Spencer