Addressing members of the media on Thursday, Galen G. Weston, executive chairman of Loblaw, told reporters that, “I’m very troubled. I’m troubled by the deafening silence from other apparel retailers on this.” Mr. Weston was referring to the tragedy at a Bangladesh textile factory last week in which factory collapsed, killing almost 400 workers.
Mr. Weston said Loblaw has always ensured that factories in its supply chain adhered to rigorous standards in areas including local labour laws and work conditions. Mr. Weston said he was “troubled” by practices that saw it fit to send workers back into the factory after it was declared dangerous.
“Nothing in those reports suggested a problem, but the scope of the audits does not cover structural integrity,” Weston said.
But it is exceedingly difficult to believe that Loblaw executives would have been unaware of the risks associated with shoddy building practices in Bangladesh. Site selection methodologies have become very sophisticated and comprehensive over the last 10 years, covering everything from the cost and availability of labour to elements associated with real estate. The number of fire escapes and other safety factors would have been integral considerations in any evaluation. Site selection may not have been the responsibility of Loblaw employees themselves, but specialists contracted to perform evaluations would have provided a detailed breakdown of risk factors. Since this has been standard procedure for some time, it is disingenuous in the extreme that Mr. Galen would project that this was all new to him and his executive team.