TORONTO Loblaw Cos Ltd (L.TO), Canada's largest grocer and the company behind the discount clothing brand Joe Fresh, is committed to staying in Bangladesh, but will take steps to improve facilities, its top executive said on Thursday.
"I am deeply troubled. I am troubled that despite a clear commitment to the highest standards of ethical sourcing, our company can still be part of such an unspeakable tragedy," executive chairman Galen Weston said in a press conference ahead of the company's annual meeting.
More than 400 factory workers were killed after an illegally built building that housed a number of apparel factories collapsed in Savar, a commercial suburb of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The company, which had some of its "Joe Fresh" brand apparel manufactured in Rana Plaza, said it would remain in Bangladesh because well-run factories can help lift people out of poverty in developing countries.
"I believe we can do more good and drive lasting change by staying in Bangladesh, and we are committed to doing that," said Joe Mimran, the designer behind the brand.
Loblaw promised to start a relief fund that would provide for victims and their families. It expected other apparel manufacturers to contribute to the fund.
The company said building integrity was not previously included in its audits, but that it would ensure new standards addressed building codes and would be enforced.
Weston, whose father was ranked as Canada's second richest man by Canadian Business magazine, said he was troubled by the "deafening silence" of other apparel retailers. He noted that as many as thirty international apparel brands had goods manufactured in the building.
Loblaw shares were up 3.7 percent at C$46.41 late morning on the Toronto Stock Exchange. (Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and David Gregorio)
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