Walmart invests $1.6 million in Bangaldesh fire safety academy

12 April 2013

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12 April 2013 | Anna Reynolds

Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer and owner of the UK supermarket chain Asda, has announced a $1.6 million (£1.04 million) donation to build an academy in Bangladesh to improve fire safety training for factory workers.

Following a tragic fire at the Tazreen factory in Bangladesh in November 2012, the Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Academy will give clothing manufacturers in Bangladesh access to high quality, affordable training on fire, health and workplace safety.

The factory was not one of the retailer's authorized suppliers, but had been subcontracted by a vendor without Walmart's knowledge.

The academy will be set up by the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), a US-based NGO, and will also have the support of the Swedish International Development Agency.

As well as funding, Walmart will provide technical support and advice to the ISC. The partnership will aim to address challenges in the supply chain related to fire safety.

ISC’s president George Hamilton said in a statement: “We urgently need to create long-term change in Bangladesh. Today, the immediate need may be fire safety – but we can’t tackle these challenges one at a time. From fire safety, to toxic chemicals, to greenhouse gas emissions – we need to stress comprehensive, systemic change in how factories understand and address interrelated environment, health and safety issues.”

Hamilton added the new academy will train 2,000 Bangladeshi factory managers, with a strong emphasis on creating opportunities in the workplace for women.

Rajan Kamalanathan, vice president of ethical sourcing for Walmart, said: “At Walmart, as we work to raise standards in the global supply chain, we continue to actively seek out partnerships with government stakeholders, nonprofits and NGOs. That is why we are partnering with ISC, known for combining expertise in leadership, institutional development and community capacity building, to improve people’s lives and the earth’s ecosystem.”

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