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2011 Safety Inspection Showed Dangers At Bangladesh Factory

This is quite the ethical dilemma. So many of the people who shop at Wal-Mart quite literally have no other options, so how do you effectively boycott a company for such questionable standards? Wal-Mart has driven competition out of business in

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This is quite the ethical dilemma. So many of the people who shop at Wal-Mart quite literally have no other options, so how do you effectively boycott a company for such questionable standards? Wal-Mart has driven competition out of business in so many places, there is literally no place else to shop:

A 2011 inspection conducted for a supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. found serious fire-safety concerns at a clothing factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, that burned down last month, killing 112 people, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Yet just weeks before the fire, a majority of the factory's assembly lines were devoted to production for Wal-Mart, according to documents found by the Journal at the wrecked factory. Sand-colored girls' shorts bearing Wal-Mart's Faded Glory label also were found at the charred factory by the Journal.

Wal-Mart declined to comment about fire-safety concerns at the factory, Tazreen Fashions Ltd. A Wal-Mart spokesman said Tazreen was removed from the retailer's list of authorized factories "months ago" but declined to be more precise or say if the retailer notified its suppliers. Wal-Mart said a supplier sent garments to Tazreen without authorization and that the retailer is investigating if others did.

Uh huh. Because Wal-Mart has been such an ethical beacon, we have no reason to question their statement, right?

The factory's owner, Delwar Hossain, couldn't be reached for comment about the deauthorization. He has said before that audits carried out for Wal-Mart didn't raise fire-safety issues at the factory.

The fire has focused attention on apparent lapses in efforts by Western retailers over the last several years to improve conditions for workers that make clothing in emerging-market factories.

In Bangladesh and elsewhere, Wal-Mart and other major retailers have mechanisms to audit and approve factories to ensure that their suppliers obtain clothing from manufacturers that are safe and don't employ child labor.

But the nature of the system means warning signs often are overlooked, experts and labor groups said. The retailers' monitoring typically is conducted by third parties and paid for by suppliers, rather than by the retailers. Wal-Mart's Standards for Suppliers manual says suppliers are required to disclose which factories they use.

When problems are identified or a factory is removed from a supplier's approved list, the news might not be communicated to other suppliers or to the factories themselves, according to interviews with executives in the industry.

Since we already know Wal-Mart Inc. refused to sign a pact with other major retailers to raise prices to pay for safety improvements, it seems the Wall Street Journal is not telling us the complete story. But this part also explains quite a bit:

In the past, the government had been reluctant to push for safety improvements because of the political clout of the garment industry, according to industry analysts. More than two dozen garment-factory owners are members of Bangladesh's Parliament.

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