Walmart Ponies Up $1.6 Million to Launch Safety Academy in Bangladesh

As part of its ongoing commitment to improving fire safety standards in Bangladesh, Walmart announced a $1.6 million donation to the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), a U.S.-based NGO, to establish the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Academy in Bangladesh. Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, is also a partner in providing support for the new academy.

Through the EHS Academy, apparel manufacturers in Bangladesh will have access to high quality, affordable and comprehensive training on fire safety and environment, health and workplace safety. In addition to funding, Walmart will also provide technical support and advice to ISC. The goal of the partnership is to provide a local, long-term platform for addressing challenges in the supply chain related to fire safety through technical training and engagement.

"We urgently need to create long-term change in Bangladesh. Today, the immediate need may be fire safety – but we can't tackle these challenges one at a time. From fire safety, to toxic chemicals, to greenhouse gas emissions we need to stress comprehensive, systemic change in how factories understand and address interrelated environment, health and safety issues over the long term," said ISC president, George Hamilton. "In partnership with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), and other corporate partners, led by Walmart, ISC is developing a locally owned and operated nonprofit Environmental Health and Safety Academy that will train 2,000 Bangladeshi factory managers annually in the skills they need to drive factories toward better safety and sustainability. It's good for them, it's good for their communities and it's good for the world."

The initial focus of EHS Academy in Bangladesh will be the ready-made garment sector, and there will be a strong emphasis on fire safety, water management, enhancing gender equity in the workplace and creating professional opportunities for Bangladeshi women.

"At Walmart, as we work to raise standards in the global supply chain we continue to actively seek out partnerships with government stakeholders, nonprofits and NGOs. That is why were are partnering with ISC, who is known for combining expertise in leadership, institutional development and community capacity building to improving people's lives and the earth's ecosystem," said Rajan Kamalanathan, vice president of ethical sourcing for Walmart. "The EHS Academy is an important part of our ongoing commitment to improve fire safety standards in Bangladesh and we are proud to partner with ISC to address the critical need for training around fire safety, health and workplace safety."

Fire safety remains a critical area of focus for Walmart. In January 2013, Walmart instituted a zero tolerance policy for unauthorized subcontracting and strengthened fire safety standards in Bangladesh. Walmart will also conduct electrical, building and fire safety assessments of factories in Bangladesh to help prevent fires in RMG Industry. Walmart continues to actively work with a variety of stakeholders to raise awareness of fire safety and establish best practices for fire prevention in Bangladesh to improve the industry as a whole. For example, Walmart is working with the Bangladesh Manufacturers and Exporters Association and the government of Bangladesh to reinforce the critical need for improved fire safety in Bangladesh and to highlight effective steps that can be taken to meet current fire safety challenges.

ISC's goal in Bangladesh is to transform the way factories are managed in order to improve the environment, health, and safety of communities and workers with an initial focus on strengthening fire safety. Prior to their partnership in Bangladesh, Walmart supported a similar EHS Academy in China, providing financial resources, technical expertise and advice that contributed to two strong EHS Academies with high impact training courses and trainers, growing recognition and an ever-expanding pool of peer-networked trainees in China.
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