Rescuers are still digging through the debris of Rana Plaza, the eight-story garment factory in Bangladesh that collapsed on April 24 — killing 402, and injuring as many as 2,500 — casting a spotlight on Western retailers who used suppliers housed in the building.
As labor activists uncover contracts and clothing tags from the rubble, brands associated with the factory are stepping forward with statements about their involvement. While many are trying to distance themselves from the tragedy, others are proactively offering aid to the victims and their families. Reactions from the brands involved:
On the day of the building's collapse, Italian firm Benetton Group issued a statement saying, "None of the companies involved are suppliers to Benetton Group or any of its brands." But activists have noted that New Wave Bottoms, one of the manufacturers based at Rana Plaza, lists Benetton as a client — and they've found Benetton paperwork and labels in the rubble.
A new statement from Benetton this past Monday said:
Regarding the tragic accident in Dhaka, Bangladesh, we wish to confirm that none of the companies involved is a supplier to any of our brands. Further to this, a one-time order was completed and shipped out of one of the manufacturers involved several weeks prior to the accident.
Since then, this subcontractor has been removed from our supplier list. A programme of random audits take place on an ongoing basis throughout our global supply chain, to ensure that all direct and indirect suppliers comply with our long-standing social, labor and environmental standards.
The Children's Place
A spokeswoman for The Children's Place said on the day of the collapse that "while one of the garment factories located in the building complex has produced apparel for The Children's Place, none of our product was in production at the time of this accident." She continued, "Our deepest sympathies go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy and their families."
After the retailer released its statement, The New York Times reported that over the past eight months, according to documents, "the New Wave factory inside Rana Plaza had made more than 120,000 pounds of clothing that had been sent in 21 shipments to The Children's Place. A two-ton shipment arrived in Savannah, Ga., on April 5."
MANGO's statement, available on its Facebook page, begins: "MANGO deeply regrets the tragedy that has occurred in Bangladesh and would like to offer its heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims.
"Furthermore, MANGO would like to clarify that the supplier Phantom was not a supplier of the company, although they were planning to produce some samples for various company lines, samples that still had not been started."
The Catalonian clothing manufacturer adds that "it would have been impossible to detect the structural defects of the collapsed building, since MANGO would not have been able to ascertain that the owners of said had building had built three storeys more than is permitted."
Women's clothing retailer Cato, another client of New Wave Bottoms, also admits to having bought clothing made in Rana in the past. "However, we did not have any ongoing production at the time of the incident," the company said in a statement, mirroring the comment from The Children's Place.
The Times, again digging into official records, uncovered documents showing that more than 90,000 pounds of clothing have been shipped from the factory to Cato since November — 27,000 of which arrived in February.
The British retailer set itself apart from the pack almost immediately, confirming that one of their suppliers was located on the second floor and stating their intention to get more information. On Monday, the brand followed up with this statement:
Primark's team in Bangladesh has been working to put in place immediate and long-term help for victims of this disaster.
We have partnered with a local NGO to address the immediate needs of victims, including the provision of emergency food aid to families. This initiative began in Bangladesh immediately [after] the extent of the disaster became clear.
Primark will also pay compensation to the victims of this disaster who worked for its supplier. This will include the provision of long-term aid for children who have lost parents, financial aid for those injured and payments to the families of the deceased.
We shall be reviewing our commitments constantly to ensure that they meet the needs of the victims as the tragedy continues to unfold.
Primark notes the fact that its supplier shared the building with those of other retailers. We are fully aware of our responsibility. We urge these other retailers to come forward and offer assistance.
Canada's Loblaw, the owner of Joe Fresh, another brand with a supplier in the building, said Monday it also planned to offer compensation for the families of victims, according to spokeswoman Julija Hunter. "We are working to ensure that we will deliver support in the best and most meaningful way possible," said Hunter, "with the goal of ensuring that victims and their families receive benefits now and in the the future."
JC Penney, one of Loblaw's retailers, was quick to point out that no company-name merchandise was being produced at the factory. But, a Penney's spokesperson told The Daily Beast, "While JCPenney has no direct insight into the development and sourcing of Joe Fresh apparel, we will continue to be a part of a broader coalition that aims to improve the safe working conditions in Bangladesh."