Duke University now requires all licensees to sign on to and abide by the Bangladesh Building and Fire Safety Accord.
About 10 percent of goods produced with the Duke logo are manufactured in Bangladesh, according to Jim Wilkerson, director of trademark licensing and stores operations, quoted in the Durham, NC, The Herald-Sun.
Since the fatal collapse of the Bangladesh Rana Plaza garment manufacturing factory in April of 2012, stricter safety standards have been established in the country, along with additional measures to prevent a repeat of the disaster which killed more than 1,000 workers.
Yet fatalities at Bangladeshi factories continued, with some 1,250 additional deaths this past year from factory disasters.
The Bangladesh Building and Fire Safety Accord, sponsored and enforced by the nation’s government, now mandate regular independent safety inspections of manufacturing facilities, timely repairs and renovations to maintain safety standards and the participation of workers and labor organizations in ongoing efforts to improve safety conditions.
Although reportedly almost 100 brands and retailers from 19 countries have signed the accord, several major US firms have declined to sign and have established their own safety programs, among them giant retailer Wal-Mart.
In his newspaper interview, Wilkerson said, “Obviously, the previous methods for trying to ensure safety in Bangladesh did not work.”
Wilkerson pointed out that Duke was the first US college or university to establish a code of conduct for manufacturing its goods, starting in 1997.
Bangladesh, with its cheap labor costs — wages average a paltry $37 monthly — is now the world’s second largest apparel manufacturer, right behind China, where wages are five times higher. Other US colleges and universities which may be sourcing their logo-bearing apparel in Bangladesh may soon be following Duke’s lead in licensing requirements.