NEW YORK — In the aftermath of a deadly blaze in a Bangladeshi factory that made some clothing for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the retailer is enforcing more stringent standards with its suppliers.
In a letter to suppliers, Wal-Mart said it would adopt a “zero-tolerance” standard beginning March 1 for undisclosed and unauthorized subcontracting. This comes in contrast with its former “three-strikes” policy, which would give suppliers warnings at first, according Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan.
Buchanan declined to specify how many suppliers Wal-Mart contacted and how many factories in the world supply the company.
Wal-Mart also will make public the list of unauthorized and failed factories through its third-party auditing system, and will require suppliers to prequalify new facilities with a green or yellow ethical-sourcing audit rating, Buchanan said, adding that the company no longer will source from new factories that are rated orange — or those that need fire-safety fixes and other improvements.
The retail giant said it would require suppliers to have a company representative based in the country of origin, instead of using third-party agents as before. “Frequent in-person monitoring will be considered an essential element,” Buchanan said.
What’s more, Wal-Mart will shorten the time it allows a factory to fix any fire-safety violations to 30 days, rather than from six months to as much as a year, the spokeswoman said. The company is also mandating additional fire-safety training and other standards in Bangladesh.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news about the tougher rules on Monday, said labor activists have played down the new policies, saying they don’t address many issues — including transparency and whether Wal-Mart’s fees to suppliers are enough to ensure safe working conditions.
In late November, a blaze at a garment factory near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, killed 112 workers as the fire escapes apparently were blocked. The Tazreen Fashions facility reportedly made apparel such as T-shirts and fleece jackets for Wal-Mart, Sears Holdings Corp., Walt Disney Co. and others, including items for a clothing label of hip-hop star Sean Combs.