Big Retailers Reassess Practices After Bangladesh Building Collapse

PHOTO: Bangladesh rescuers look for survivors and victims at the site of a building that collapsed Wednesday in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, April 25, 2013.

Major clothing brands including Walmart, Gap Inc. and jcpenney are deep in discussions about how to respond to renewed cries for safety reforms in Bangladesh following a building collapse that has claimed the lives of more than 500 garment workers.

In addition, Disney this week made public its own plans to pull its licensees and suppliers out of Bangladesh entirely.

"For lots of reasons, this collapse and the enormous death toll has struck a nerve," said Charles Kernaghan, director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. "This has hit like a shock to the garment industry. And it's just not going away."

While there remains some uncertainty about exactly which retail brands were producing clothes in the Rana Plaza building in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, a number of major retailers including Gap, Target, and jcpenney met in Germany earlier this week to talk with worker rights groups about steps they can take make immediate improvements to safety conditions there. Two of America's largest companies, Disney and Walmart, have also gone public describing new steps they recently imposed to confront persistent safety issues in Bangladesh.

Disney sent a letter in March telling hundreds of licensees and vendors -- the companies that actually make apparel with Disney characters and logos -- that the company wanted out of Bangladesh and was imposing tough new rules overseas for those involved in production. Walmart said in an email to ABC News that it, too, launched new initiatives last month to address fire concerns.

After 112 workers were killed in a massive Bangladesh factory fire six months ago at the Tazreen factory, Walmart fired a supplier they said had routed orders to the factory involved in the blaze without the retail giant's knowledge.

"We know that continued engagement is critical to ensure that reliable, proactive measures are in place and we are continuing to work with the industry association, suppliers, brands and other interested parties to come to an appropriate resolution on this matter and develop broad-based solutions for the industry," said Megan Murphy, Walmart's senior manager for international corporate affairs.

Monitoring groups have said evidence including photos, "spec sheets" and eyewitness accounts suggest in addition to Walmart , clothes imprinted with Disney logos were also being made at the Tazreen factory.

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