Dear Guy Russo,
I am a KMART customer and feel compelled to write this letter to voice my concern over KMART’s purchase of clothing ‘Made in Bangladesh’. The inhumane conditions that workers face in Bangladesh confronted me last November (24th of November 2012) after a fire at the Tazreen Fashion Factory killed 112 workers. Around this time I went to KMART to look for some pyjamas for my son, as it was heading into Summer and he didn’t have any summer pyjamas. I was attracted to some sale items with a price that was hard to beat. I then decided to look at where the product was made and saw that it was ‘Made in Bangladesh’.
I have previously seen ‘Made in Bangladesh’ clothing and was curious about this, though I didn’t fully give it a lot of thought. What did I know about Bangladesh at that time? I knew that Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world (population of 120 million people and 1,142.29 people per square kilometre compared to 2.9 people/sq. Km in Australia source: http://www.tradingeconomics.com/bangladesh/population-density-people-per-sq-km-wb-data.html). I knew that Bangladesh was one of the poorest countries in the world (in 1990 56.6% of people lived below the poverty line, but now that number is 31.5% source: http://www.undp.org.bd/mdgs.php). Malnourishment of children is a significant issue (over 54% of pre-school children are classified as underweight). I also knew that Bangladesh is prone to flooding (because about 80% of Bangladesh sits in an alluvial delta barely 10 metres above sea level and is intersected by 230 rivers, flooding becomes a frequent occurrence after annual monsoons).
Now in this situation, having an industry like the clothing manufacturing industry may be seen as a way to alleviate poverty, to have an established industry and address some of the issues I’ve already discussed. Clothing manufacturing is said to account for 80% of Bangladesh’s annual exports.
But it is this very industry that has resulted in about 1,000 people dying in the last few weeks (8 people died resulting from a fire at Tung Hai Sweater Ltd. factory and 920 deaths resulted from the building collapse at Rana Plaza, source: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1764476/Eight-dead-in-new-Bangladesh-factory-fire).
While I am not saying that KMART is directly associated with these factories, by having much of its clothing ‘Made in Bangladesh’ KMART is responsible for ensuring workers are paid a decent wage, are treated fairly and that their work environment is safe. The proper management of KMART’s supply chain is your responsibility.
I share this story, because as a mother of two and KMART customer, last year I made the decision not to buy the pyjamas and I have not purchased a ‘Made in Bangladesh’ garment from KMART since. As a customer, I would like to know the clothes that I purchase not only contribute towards the economy of a developing country, but not at the cost of human life. Mr Russo, I ask you to:
• Please sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement. The Agreement, developed by Bangladeshi and global unions and labour rights organizations, provides for independent inspections of supplier factories, public reporting, training and mandatory repairs and renovations.
• Send a representative to Bangladesh to meet with the trade unions and labour organisations working directly with the affected workers to agree on next steps.
• Voice your concerns to the Bangladeshi government and demand that trade unions and their representatives are protected and consulted with to ensure the safety of your suppliers in Bangladesh.
By taking the above steps, not only will you see me return as one of your customers, but you will also be promoting KMART’s corporate social responsibility in a public manner. I am sure many other customers would love to see these positive steps taken and you will likely be rewarded by their trade and new customers.