When a factory collapsed in Bangladesh last month, killing hundreds, the workers inside likely weren’t making clothes for Disney.
The company just revealed to The New York Times that it told vendors to pull nearly all of its manufacturing out of the country in March. That month Disney sent a letter to thousands of its licensees and vendors, outlining new guidelines for how its clothes are made overseas -- including an end to production in Bangladesh, The New York Times reports.
"These are complicated global issues and there is no 'one size fits all' solution," Bob Chapek, president of Disney Consumer Products, said in a statement. "We are hopeful that these decisions will also promote progress in the most challenged markets."
Disney's move comes as retailers are feeling pressure to better improve working conditions in Bangladesh and around the world after the devastating factory collapse there killed more than 400 workers.
Disney had been discussing reforming its supply chain for some time, but the talks accelerated after a factory fire in Bangladesh last year killed more than 100, according to the NYT. Items from Walmart, Disney and Sears were found at the factory, even though some of the companies thought they had stopped doing business there. Disney ultimately determined that its products weren't produced at the site of the fire and instead were made at an authorized factory nearby.
In the wake of the building collapse that killed 400 last month, protesters around the world have pressured retailers to take action, arguing that the quest for “bargain basement” clothing led directly to the disasters in Bangladesh and elsewhere. Western brands have turned to countries like Bangladesh with low wages to get their clothes produced on the cheap, but the retailers' complex supply chain means they often have trouble monitoring conditions in the factories that make their clothes.
In the letter to vendors and licensees, Disney -- which described itself as "the world’s largest licensor" -- highlighted some of those concerns. The letter directed licensees and vendors to move all production to countries on its new "Permitted Sourcing Countries List," which does not include Bangladesh. In addition, Disney asked suppliers to pull completely out of Bangladesh and other countries not on the list by March 31, 2014.
"Because Disney is primarily a licensor of intellectual properties, we must rely more heavily upon our licensees and vendors to help ensure working conditions that are consistent with Disney’s standards," the letter states. "We are making this change to more effectively focus our resources, better manage the supply chain for Disney-branded products and meet our standards on a more reliable and consistent basis in locations more likely to make continuous improvements in working conditions."
Though it appears Disney is one of the few retailers to take the step of pulling out of Bangladesh entirely, many major brands say they are trying to address working conditions in the country. Representatives from companies like Walmart, the Gap and H&M met earlier this week to develop a plan to prevent similar disasters, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In addition, the European Union is considering taking trade actions against Bangladesh, which gets special access to EU markets for its clothes.