Matalan has rejected further calls for it to pay into an official fund for victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, saying it will instead build a longer-term relationship with its local charity partner.
Independent campaign group 38 Degrees this week (July 28) launched an online petition and four-day campaign urging its 2.5 million members to pressure the value retailer to donate £3m to the UN-backed Rana Plaza Donor Trust Fund. The group has threatened to hold a demonstration outside Matalan’s headquarters in Skelmersdale, West Lancashire, if the retailer will not meet with campaigners following the conclusion of the campaign.
Matalan had used the Rana Plaza factory to produce samples a month before the building collapsed, on April 24 last year, killing 1,129 workers and injuring 2,515.
While some retailers, such as Primark, have paid compensation into the official Rana Plaza fund, Matalan instead paid an undisclosed sum to local charity The Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Commission (Brac).
In a statement, the retailer said it had pledged “100% of the money that we made from the garments manufactured at [Rana Plaza-based supplier] New Wave to Brac, ensuring that every penny goes direct to the people that need it most, towards essential medical care and helping people build a self-sufficient future”.
Matalan told Drapers it had separately donated “another significant amount” to this same charity, although would not confirm a figure.
The main reason it had donated to Brac rather than the official fund was “their ability to act quickly”, Matalan said. It explained Brac was providing “essential medical care and helping people build a self-sufficient future, providing counselling where it is needed and enhancing basic life skills”.
“Such is the impression that Brac have left with us we are currently looking to extend the relationship between the two parties into a formal three-year strategic partnership,” it added. “We see this as a real long-term strategic commitment to support the work Brac do and hence are working with the organisation to support their needs far beyond merely a one-off donation”.
The retailer added it had “undertaken a significant level of due diligence and have looked to avoid public debates of where the right place to put our support should be.”
The official Rana Plaza Donor Trust Fund has failed to reach its $40m (£23.5m) target to compensate victims. To date, $17m (£9.9m) has been contributed by clothing companies to the fund, with Primark having paid $12m (£6.9m) of the amount raised. Other UK retailers including Debenhams and N Brown have made undisclosed contributions.