By Aimee Chanthadavong
Kmart has become the first Australian retailer to publish the addresses of the supplier factories in all countries making its clothes, as it will allow independent checks of conditions for workers.
The company’s managing director Guy Russo made this pledge stating in a release to the media: “There are risks working in countries where industry standards, management skills and training, and rules and regulations are significantly less than what we are accustomed to here at home.
“To address this Kmart, and other responsible companies, have long had in place strict ethical sourcing codes of conduct to uphold standards and protect the workers who make the products we sell. On behalf of Kmart Australia, we don’t always get this right but I can wholeheartedly say that we rectify any issue urgently, and we adjust our operations and way of thinking immediately where required,” he said.
The announcement has been welcomed by Oxfam Australia’s chief executive Helen Szoke.
"This is a hugely important step and means that Kmart will be leading the pack in terms of transparency among Australian clothing retailers,” she said.
“Once Kmart publishes its list of supplier factories, it will be possible for independent groups to visit factory sites and verify wages and conditions for workers. We look forward to visiting Kmart's website very soon and being able to download this information.
"Oxfam has spent nearly two decades investigating the global clothing industry, and our research shows that very low wages, long hours of overtime and unsafe workplaces are the norm.
“We call on other Australian retailers to follow Kmart’s lead and assure customers that they are being open about the location of factories and enabling independent checks.”
Last month, Kmart and Target became the first Australian retailers to sign on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord, which aims to ensure tragedies like April’s Rana Plaza building collapse do not happen again.
Woolworths (Big W), Rivers, Best & Less and The Just Group (Just Jeans, Jay Jays) are yet to sign on.
The accord, which has been signed by more than 70 global retailers including other Australian brands Cotton On and Forever New, gives workers the right to refuse dangerous work, and mandates independent building inspections, workers’ health and safety training, and repairs and renovations to unsafe factories.
Szoke said Kmart’s move goes beyond their obligations under the accord by publicly revealing locations of all their supplier factories, no matter where they operate.
“The death of five workers in last Thursday's garment factory collapse in India, together with two factory collapses in May in Cambodia, shows that the problem of unsafe workplaces is not limited to Bangladesh,” she said.
Kmart will be joining European and US companies such as Nike, Levis, Timberland and H&M, which publicly release the locations of their suppliers. H&M recently released the location of supplier factories, listing 164 factories in Bangladesh alone.