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Asda vows to put ethics at top of list

Asda has said it will put supply chain ethics ahead of meeting consumer demand, after investigating claims that workers at its Bangladeshi factories faced unfair working conditions.

The sourcing team for George at Asda is trying to establish better relationships with suppliers to prevent the "ripple" effects of consumer demand, said a spokesman.

"In the past, if the weather was unusually warm, buyers may have been told to source 20,000 T-shirts faster than normal," he said. "But they weren't aware of the consequences on suppliers. Now the team will report back if demands are too extreme and find alternatives, such as spreading a request across several factories. We also use fewer manufacturers now."

Asda's investigation will include new audits of its 80 factories in Bangladesh over the next four months.

The retailer, together with Tesco and Primark, who have also been accused of breaching labour standards, is calling on charity War on Want, which made the allegations in December last year, to reveal the names of the factories in question.

One corporate social responsibility source agreed retailers needed access to the information. "How can they fix the problem if they don't know where it starts?" she said. "The minimum wage in Bangladesh used to be £10 per month, so factories are in line with the law in that country. Something must be done, but factories must remain competitive."

Asda stressed that it shared its factories with retailers including Tesco and Primark.

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