Retail giant Walmart defended its garment production operations on Wednesday in the face of reports that a Bangladeshi factory that killed hundreds when it collapsed last month was producing apparel for its stores.
Walmart declined to sign on to a legally binding agreement to improve safety conditions at its factories but has pledged to do so voluntarily and to post the results of extensive inspections on its website.
Liberal groups such as the Center for American Progress criticized Walmart’s refusal to accede to a legally binding agreement.
Walmart has donated to the Center for American Progress (CAP) in the past. The Center for American Progress Action Fund’s blog, ThinkProgress, has written about the Bangladeshi factory collapse nine times and mentioned Walmart in three of those posts. None of the three posts that mentioned Walmart have noted its past financial support for CAP.
CAP did not respond to a request for comment on that failure to disclose the financial relationship.
"If we identify issues that cause us to believe that people’s lives are in danger, we will take swift action," said Rajan Kamalanathan, Walmart’s vice president of ethical sourcing, in a news release.
Documents obtained by the New York Times indicated that a Walmart contractor was producing jeans at the Dhaka, Bangladesh, factory that collapsed last month, killing up to 1,100 workers and injuring as many as 2,500 more.
Walmart indicated that contractor Fame Jeans had lied to the company about its Bangladeshi production in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.
Fame Jeans "told us there was no previous production at Rana Plaza," the factory in question, "but our suppliers have a binding obligation to disclose all factories producing Walmart merchandise," Walmart spokesperson Megan Murphy said in an emailed statement.
Murphy said Walmart was ending its business relationship with Fame Jeans due to its policy on "unauthorized subcontracting."
She stressed that Walmart had no operations in the Rana Plaza factory at the time of the disaster.
"Media reports have given the impression there was production for Walmart happening in Rana Plaza at the time of the tragic building collapse. That’s wrong," Murphy said. She did not specify which media reports were inaccurate.
Contacted for comment, Times reporter Steven Greenhouse noted that nothing in Murphy’s statement contradicted his reporting.
"No one has challenged the facts of the story," Greenhouse wrote. "No one has asked for a correction. No one has said there was anything wrong in the story."