Is Wal-Mart Neglecting Responsibilities in Bangladesh?
In November 2012, a fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh — a country surrounded on three sides by India, with the Bay of Bengal to its south — caught on fire, killing at least 117 people and injuring at least 200 more. The factory produced clothing for a wide array of organizations including the U.S. Marines, C&A (an international chain of retail clothing stores headquartered in Belgium), and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT).
The fire was the worst at any factory in the country, but the tragedy was overshadowed in April 2013, when the Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial building also on the outskirts of Dhaka, collapsed, killing 1,129 people and injuring 2,500 more. The collapse is one of the worst garment-factory disasters in history.
Together, the events helped pull the international spotlight to Bangladesh, the second-largest clothing exporter in the world behind China, with as many as 3.6 million people employed in the industry. Victims of the disasters, advocacy groups, and the public have banded together to put pressure not just on the factory operators, but on the brands and retailers who keep them in business, to push for improved working conditions.