Oxfam welcomes Kmart’s pledge to be the first Aussie retailer to release locations of garment factories

Campaigns and Advocacy, Fair Trade & Workers Rights, Media Releases article written on the 10 Jul 2013

Oxfam Australia today welcomes Kmart’s confirmation that it will publish the addresses of supplier factories in all countries making its clothing, as this will allow independent checks of conditions for workers.

A pledge by Kmart’s Managing Director Guy Russo was made over the weekend (Sunday 7 July) on ABC RN’s Background Briefing program, and this has been confirmed to Oxfam today by the company.

Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said this made Kmart the first Australian retailer to announce it would publicly reveal the addresses of supplier factories.

“This is a hugely important step and means that Kmart will be leading the pack in terms of transparency among Australian clothing retailers,” Dr Szoke 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.

Dr 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,” Dr Szoke 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.

Media enquiries to Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801 or laurellek@oxfam.org.au