Tragedy in Bangladesh

Les Mandelbaum Guest ColumnistLes Mandelbaum Guest Columnist
I have been a designer and wholesale vendor of gifts and home décor for 33 years.
     As someone who has been importing from Asian factories during most of those years and travelled to various Asian countries over 75 times, I have a strong reaction to the recent tragedy of the building collapse in Bangladesh.
     Beyond the factory owners themselves, the responsibility lies squarely on the importers. Certainly end use customers are not in a position to assess factories, obviously cannot trust the promises of manufacturers nor should they boycott Bangladesh and cause further suffering to those low-wage workers who rely on these jobs for survival.
     Many of these factories are chosen by unscrupulous middleman agents and either inspected by themselves or third-party inspectors who mostly "sell" their seals of approval. I believe the right way is the way we do it. Umbra senior management personally inspects and approves every factory we use, and follows this up with subsequent "surprise" visits. If we find unsafe or unethical conditions, we pull production immediately.
     Unfortunately, in my many years of overseas travel, I have rarely heard of the management of other western vendors doing this. They must.
- Les Mandelbaum, president and co-founder, Umbra

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