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Target Australia, Pacific Brands Pledge Factory Transparency in Bangladesh

In a move some human rights advocates are calling a “watershed moment,” Target Australia and Pacific brands pledged to disclose the names and locations of all the factories they contract with in Bangladesh.

Target promised to publish the names of the forty-five factories its suppliers use in Bangladesh over the next six to nine months. Subsequently, it plans to apply the same policy of full disclosure to its factories in India and China as well. Stuart Machin, chief executive of Target, said, “We want our customers to be confident that the products they buy from us have been produced in safe, fair and equitable working conditions.”

Target follows in Kmart’s footsteps, the first Australian company to agree to such heights of transparency regarding its supply chain. Both Target and Kmart are owned by Wesfarmers, and are were among the first companies to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord, which binds all its signatory members to supervise the improvement of factory safety, labor conditions and to provide the financial assistance necessary for both.

Pacific Brands, which owns Jockey and Bonds, also signed the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord even though, according to its chief executive John Pollaers, only 1 percent of the company’s factories are located in Bangladesh.

Helen Szoke, chief executive of Oxfam, stressed the importance of such forthcomingness when it comes to the supply chain as part of a strategy to improve Bangladesh’s factories. She said, “Without releasing information about supplier locations, there is no way to independently check with workers that decent conditions and basic rights are being upheld within factories. We urge other Australian retailers to follow Kmart’s lead, by being open about where they source their garments.”

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And full-disclosure seems to be the order of the day. Walmart recently announced it will finally release the results of a much anticipated audit of its Bangladesh factories for safety, the first time a major Western retailer has provided such a transparent portal into its inspections process.

Currently, Walmart contracts with more than 200 factories in Bangladesh and has, thus far, managed to inspect seventy-five of them. Approximately 15 percent of these failed the initial round of inspections. One of these was in such egregious violation of code it had to be shuttered. The company’s plan is to complete an inspection of all of its factories and begin publishing the results in the next few months.

Historically, Walmart has played its cards close to the chest, refraining from openly discussing its factories, their safety and structural conditions and even specific locations. But now they aim to become an industry leader in supply chain transparency. Jay Jorgensen, Walmart’s global chief compliance officer, said, “We’ve spent $4 million on these audits, and we’re not done yet. There’s a lot of progress left to be made.”