Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Dick Locke. Dick, who has delivered seminars to over 100 companies across the globe, is a seasoned expert on International Sourcing and Procurement who wrote the book. (Here is the link to his archived posts.)
The fire that killed 112 Bangladeshi garment workers has brought out some appalling purchasing practices that seem rampant in the garment industry. And this is the second such fire in three months. The previous fire killed more than 300 people in Pakistan.
The New York Times has had several articles on the issue. Here are some quotes. This picture is wrong on so many levels.
From one article:
“… mounds of flammable yarn and fabric were illegally stored on the ground floor near electrical generators. Had the fabric been stored in an enclosed, fireproof room, as required by law, the fire could have been contained and the workers could have escaped.”
“After the fire, Walmart, Sears and other retailers made the same startling admission: They say they did not know that Tazreen Fashions was making their clothing.”
“Much of the factory’s business came through opaque networks of subcontracts with suppliers or local buying houses.”
“The factory’s owner, Delowar Hossain, said his managers arranged work through local middlemen. ‘We don’t know the buyers’, Mr. Hossain said in an interview. ‘The local man is important. The buyer – I don’t care’.”
“The Bangladeshi government has started inspecting the country’s 4,500 garment factories; it has already found fire code violations in almost a third of the hundreds it has examined.”
From another article:
“Sridevi Kalavakolanu, a Walmart director of ethical sourcing, along with an official from another major apparel retailer, noted that the proposed improvements in electrical and fire safety would involve as many as 4,500 factories and would be ‘in most cases’ a ‘very extensive and costly modification’.
‘It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments’, the minutes said”.
Folks, this is so basic. You need to know your suppliers personally, wherever in the world they may be. You also need to know where your products are being built. It’s time to bring garment purchasing into the modern world. If you can’t afford to have your own people in the suppliers’ country, you can’t afford to buy there.