In the aftermath of the deadly Bangladesh factory collapse, Loblaw has been admirably vocal about its plans to compensate victims' families and to make checking the structural integrity of factory buildings part of its future audits of suppliers. (Loblaw owns Joe Fresh, which had clothing made for it at the collapsed factory.) However, the problem of unsafe labour conditions for global garment workers is far bigger than one apparel company, which is why the conversation on HuffPost quickly turned to broader long-term solutions.
Most of our bloggers were in general agreement that a boycott of Bangladesh would do more harm than good. As Peter Fragiskatos put it, "the plight of garment workers -- as bad as it is -- would be even worse back in the rural villages where so many of them once lived." A more useful course of action might be that championed by Kevin Thomas: urging companies such as Loblaw to participate in a comprehensive, independent fire and safety inspection program in Bangladesh rather than relying on company-controlled audits.
How realistic is this? Obviously no business is going to make a decision that destroys its profitability. But the fact that PVH Corp, the company that owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, has chosen to take the independent inspection route in Bangladesh suggests that it's not an unworkably expensive choice. Certainly, the reputational harm a company experiences from being associated with the preventable death and injury of workers isn't exactly cost-free itself. So beyond the obvious moral reasons for making this kind of change, there's a market argument to made for getting it right as well.
The interesting part of this story will come in a few months, once the news cycle has moved on from the disaster in Dakha. Will Loblaw have the fortitude to get out there and remind us all of the disturbing incident in order to update us on the details of its follow-through -- exactly how much compensation it has given to whom, and in what precise ways its audits have changed? Or will it be content to let its customers' thoughts of the collapse quietly fade away, as they are bound to do? I think we'll be able to tell a lot more about the company from that answer than we can from its immediate post-tragdey PR strategy.