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Wal-Mart to Support Safety School in Bangladesh

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Wal-Mart is donating $1.6 million to help establish the Environmental Health and Safety academy in Bangladesh, in an attempt to repair its tattered image and help improve safety after the Tazreen Fashions fire. They donated the money to the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), an NGO based in the United States. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency is a partner as well.

The academy will provide fire safety and environment health and workplace safety training, at an affordable cost. Wal-Mart will provide advice and technical support to ISC. Wal-Mart hopes to address safety challenges in the supply chain through stronger partnerships, training, and engagement.

According to ISC president George Hamilton, the academy will train 2,000 Bangladeshi factory managers annually in skills related to safety and sustainability. The initial focus of the academy will be the ready-made garment sector, where it hopes to promote fire safety, water management, gender equity, and creating opportunities for women.

After clothes being made for Wal-Mart were linked to the Tazreen Fashions fire, Wal-Mart issued a zero tolerance policy for unauthorized subcontracting and vowed to strengthen fire safety standards in Bangladesh. The company has a program for dealing with violations that was in place at the time of the fire and which had flagged Tazreen Fashions, but subcontractors placed goods in the factory without Wal-Mart’s knowledge, according to Wal-Mart executives.

The company’s program of inspecting electrical, building, and fire safety is being expanded to include subcontractors. They are also working with the Bangladesh Manufacturers and Exporters Association and the government to lay out steps that can be taken to improve safety. They have not yet released a list of suppliers, which would allow independent third-party oversight.

Wal-Mart previously supported an Environmental Health and Safety academy in China, which is credited with having a strong impact on safety in that country’s garment industry.

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