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Call for fashion to appoint supply chain watchdog

Campaigners are calling on the Government to introduce a clothing ombudsman to ensure retailers uphold legal working standards throughout their global supply chain.

John Hilary, executive director of anti-poverty charity War on Want, told Drapers he was concerned retailers were not shouldering their responsibilities when it came to compensation.

He also claimed some retailers who had publicly committed to the Fire and Building Safety Accord in Bangladesh previously were starting to “row back”.

“It’s an indication that having a couple of weeks’ media focus and outrage around the world isn’t enough – you need legislation,” he said.

Hilary said government involvement would mean “everyone had to play by the same rules”.

He pointed to the creation of a groceries code adjudicator by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to maintain legal standards throughout the supply chain as a potential model for the clothing industry.

“Having an ombudsman to whom you can bring complaints means you get past the public relationship fluff on [corporate social responsibility] to the truth of the matter,” he said.

BIS told Drapers it was not responding to enquiries on Bangladesh or the supply chain, directing us instead to the Department for International Development (DfID).

A DfID spokeswoman said it kept “regular contact” with companies working in Bangladesh. She added: “There is still much more to be done and everyone needs to play their part.”

Last weekend, activists from groups including Labour Behind the Label and War on Want staged a series of protests around the UK over the lack of full compensation from retailers Mango and Benetton.

The protests marked one month on from the Bangladeshi factory disaster that killed more than 1,120 people.

Benetton, which had used the factory for two orders, the last of which was a month before the tragedy, has so far committed to offering assistance for artificial limbs and surgery, and is working on a programme “focused on the families who have lost their only source of income due to this tragedy”.

At the time of the incident, Mango said it had no “official suppliers” at the factory “although we had established contact with one of them in order to produce a sample order”. Both have signed the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord.

Readers' comments (1)

  • These campaigners are targeting the wrong government.

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