VF Corporation, owner of brands such as The North Face, Wrangler and Timberland, has published a progress report in which it highlights its work with the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety to prevent unsafe conditions at the factories in that country with which it contracts. According to the statement, which is tied to the release of the Alliance's first annual report, VF, in collaboration with the Alliance, made measurable progress during the past 13 months in the areas of factory inspections and repairs, as well as worker training and empowerment initiatives, in addition to providing significant financial resources to ensure worker support and safety.
The apparel group said the Alliance has now completed inspections of 100 percent of the 587 factories producing goods for Alliance members, and the full or partial closure of ten of them due to safety concerns has been recommended. Other actions include the hiring of independent, local inspectors, the training of more than one million workers and managers in fire safety, and the backing by Alliance members of more than $100 million in capital for the improvement of safety conditions in their respective supply chains.
The Alliance hosted a first international trade expo on building and fire safety in Dhaka. In terms of worker empowerment, the Alliance conducted what is said to be the largest-ever worker survey in Bangladesh, with more than 3,200 local workers, and a follow-up survey with almost 700 of them, to assess worker awareness. It also appointed three Bangladeshi labor leaders to its board of advisors and created a board committee comprised of seven trade union leaders dedicated exclusively to labor issues. Worker representatives were invited to be part of the factory inspection process, and the Alliance Members Agreement was amended to include a worker's right to refuse unsafe work.
VF is a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a legally binding, five-year commitment to transparent, results-oriented, measurable and verifiable actions to improve the safety of the Bangladeshi ready-made garment factories. The Alliance comprises 26 North American apparel and retail companies among which are Wal-Mart, Target, Macy's, Costco, Kohl's and Gap. As a member of the Alliance and through its independent actions, VF said it has pledged to spend at least $17 million in the near-term to improve working conditions in Bangladesh.