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Low-cost goods must not mean low-cost lives

Justin Hughes

The Grocer

8 June 2013


Letter to the editor

Sir: The Bangladesh safety accord is welcome (‘Walmart snubs Bangladesh safety accord in favour of own plan,’, 15 May). But it seems a very low price to pay for over 1,100 deaths. The number of organisations that are aware of the key risks in their supply chain, let alone accepting responsibility for them, is unacceptably low. 

The fact that some retailers seemed to wait until their products were pulled from the rubble of the Rana Plaza before acknowledging this was a supplier of theirs shows that the clothing industry has not learnt the lessons we hope the food industry will from the horsemeat scandal. No organisation can ensure its supply chain is low-risk, responsible and sustainable if it can’t identify risks in its second and third-tier suppliers. 

A spokesman for IndustriALL said the accord included “strengthening workers’ rights, training, and brands making a financial commitment relative to the size of their business in Bangladesh” and the Walmart agreement focused on safety and fire training. While it is too early to dismiss these actions as paper tigers, they will prove toothless if organisations do not understand who is in their supply chain or accept greater legal and moral responsibility. 

In a country like Bangladesh where regulations are sparse and loopholes easy to find, they should ensure it’s about low-cost goods not low-cost lives.

Justin Hughes is a supply chain expert at PA Consulting Group 

To find out more about PA’s supply chain expertise click here or contact us now.

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