May 2, 2013 12:19 pm

Loblaw to include structural integrity audits of suppliers following Bangladesh collapse

Watch above video of Joe Fresh brand founder Joe Mimran and Loblaws CEO Galen Weston at a Thursday morning press conference regarding the Bangladesh factory building collapse.

TORONTO – Loblaw Companies Ltd. says it will include the structural integrity of buildings in audits of suppliers in the wake of the collapse of a building in Bangladesh that housed one of the company’s suppliers and killed more than 400 people.

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One of the factories in the building produced a small number of items for Loblaw’s Joe Fresh clothing line. Loblaw says its previous standards were designed to ensure that products were manufactured in a socially responsible way, but did not address the issue of building construction or integrity.

“We must do a better job to enforce the safety of workers producing our products in Bangladesh and around the world,” said Joe Mimran, who founded the Joe Fresh brand.

Loblaw also says it will now have its own staff on the ground to help with the inspections of its supplier companies.

READ MORE: Canadian retailers hold ‘urgent’ meeting to discuss sweatshops, working conditions overseas

Mimran said owners of other factories that manufacture Joe Fresh clothing have already started to provide the company with architectural plans and building permits.

The company has also set up a relief fund to help victims and families of those killed in the disaster now and in the future.

Loblaw Inc. CEO Galen Weston says he’s troubled by the “deafening silence” of other apparel retailers that used the Bangladeshi garment factory that collapsed last week.

Weston said before the company’s annual meeting on Thursday that as many as 30 international apparel brands were having goods manufactured in this building yet only two have come forward to speak publicly.

“There are many other retailers involved here and the way that we’re going to make lasting change in countries like Bangladesh, and the industry as a whole, is to act as an industry,” he said.

One shareholder asked Weston whether the company would establish a website to keep the public updated with the efforts being made in Bangladesh. He said while those plans haven’t been made, it’s being considered.

“We will look at options for opportunities to keep the public, consumer and shareholder up to date on what it is we are doing.”

The illegally constructed, eight-story Rana Plaza collapsed in a heap as thousands of people worked inside in five garment factories. More than 430 are dead and 149 people are still missing.

On Wednesday, Loblaw reported a 40 per cent increase in first-quarter profits and raised its dividend just over nine per cent.

Canada’s largest supermarket operator said it earned $171 million or 61 cents per share, up from $122 million or 43 cents in the year-earlier period. Revenue rose to $7.2 billion from $6.94 billion.

For more on the collapse and reaction from retailers, click here.

With files from Rob Gillies and David Friend 

© The Canadian Press, 2013

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