Cornell University has ended its business affiliation with licensed collegiate apparel manufacturer VF Corp.-owned JanSport, due to the corporation’s reluctance to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
In a letter from Cornell president David J. Skorton to VF Corp. CEO Eric Wiseman, Skorton wrote, “The sheer size of VF’s presence and influence in Bangladesh behooves the company to support all initiatives designed to improve worker and factory safety in that country.” He added, “Although VF and JanSport are separate business entities, VF’s practices regarding labor compliance and practices govern all production globally and are all applied to all VF subsidiaries.”
Skorton recently expressed his concern over the ongoing issues surrounding worker safety in Bangladesh, where VF has 91 factories. In May 2014, he asked VF to sign the Accord, which was established after the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 workers. However, rather than sign with the 150-member Accord with signatories including companies like Inditex, H&M and Fast Retailing, VF chose to join the smaller Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety with 26 members including Gap, Macy’s and VF Corporation.
Skorton noted that Cornell would be happy to re-establish its relationship with VF should they decide to sign the Accord in the future. Fourteen other universities have ended their business ties with VF due to its refusal to sign. The Accord is the preferred agreement among student organizations as many believe factory workers get a broader role in factory reviews.