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Bridget O' Shaughnessy

Tesco: How ethical are your clothes? Six months after the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, Lucy Siegle asks Tesco how the high street retailer is improving its supply chain • Share14 • • • inShare14 • Email • • o Lucy Siegle o o The Observer, Sunday 6 October 2013 As an active member of the Bangladesh Accord how do you intend to drive the process forward? Why is it important that Tesco is a leader in this process? We were the first UK retailer to sign up to the Accord and we see it as a very important opportunity to improve standards across the Bangladesh garment industry as a whole. Ultimately we will all benefit from an industry with strong standards and the enforcement of laws that protect workers. There simply must be no repeat of Rana Plaza. The Accord is well placed to raise the tide while the Bangladesh government's own efforts to enforce these laws improves. None of this, though, is a substitute for our direct responsibility to ensure safe, good conditions at our own suppliers' factories. We're already well advanced with our own programme of checks, and we've made a wider set of commitments about how we'll do business in Bangladesh, which is publicly available athttps://www.tescoplc.com/talkingshop/index.asp?blogid=114 We are committed to using our scale for good and the safety of all workers in our supply chain is of the highest importance to us. What specific resources is Tesco committing to the Accord, especially in terms of dedicated staff? We are paying for expert chartered engineers to visit and assess structural and fire safety at every one of the 100 factories we work with, in advance of the Accord recruiting its own inspectors – and we're sharing all our results with the Accord including global unions and other retailers. Meanwhile, the 54 people in our local Bangladesh sourcing office are in our factories every day checking on conditions, ensuring we know the factory owners and managers, and confirming action has been taken wherever we've identified issues of concern. What can the Accord achieve? How will it change the fastfashion/low cost fashion landscape? The most important thing the Accord can achieve is improvement in standards across the industry, so that all workplaces are fundamentally safe, retailers remain confident to continue sourcing in the country, customers can trust where their garments are made - and the millions of hard-working people reliant on the industry have their jobs safeguarded.. We don't believe it has to mean higher prices: the best and most efficient factories invest in their people, deliver reliability and quality, and manage safe premises. And the best factories also tend to pay their workers more, which is why we believe that minimum wages in the country could and should be increased. Six months on from the Rana Plaza catastrophe how has approach to sourcing/CSR changed? Specifically how do you approach the following/ or do you have in place: Unionisation/ right to collective bargaining for garment workers. As a founding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative we fully support the right to unionisation and collective bargaining. One of the best things that could happen for the Bangladesh industry would be that new freedoms promised by the Government for unions lead to the emergence of mature dialogue between responsible factory owners and worker representatives. We have been working closely with Industriall and Uni-Golbal as part of the Accord and look forward the establishment of functioning worker safety committees as a key a step towards improved industrial relations. Living wage/Asia floor wages We are committed to ensuring decent wages are paid and typically workers in our factories in Bangladesh are paid double the minimum wage. We are actively lobbying for a meaningful increase to the legal minimum wage in Bangladesh and for this wage to be reviewed on an annual basis – not once every few years. Six months after Rana Plaza what assurances/guarantees can you give to consumers that your fashion offering has been produced in ethical conditions? As a founder member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, we are strongly committed to trading responsibly and we have been working for years to ensure our suppliers meet our standards, with support for improvement. We also take action where improvement isn't swift enough – which is why we ceased working with 15 factories in the 12 months before the Rana Plaza collapse occurred. Tesco did not use factories in the Rana Plaza building. But the tragedy made us review our efforts again and we are determined to go further and faster with our own supply chain, where our reach and responsibility is greatest. We introduced a series of measures in Bangladesh regarding worker safety and to ensure workers are treated fairly, including offering suppliers two ye
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