WSJ Investigation: Amazon Sellers Sourcing From Unsafe Factories

WSJ Investigation: Amazon Sellers Sourcing From Unsafe Factories

(gas hisses) – [Interpreter] (speaks
in a foreign language) – (speaks in a foreign language) (dramatic music) – [Narrator] When you shop
for clothing on Amazon, you see a giant selection
from many thousands of sellers available for cheap and
swift delivery to your door. It’s part of the reason, Amazon has become one of the
largest apparel retailers in the United States. A Wall Street Journal investigation found that Amazon sells
clothing from factories major fashion retailers have blacklisted for unsafe conditions that
put workers’ lives at risk. Amazon’s size and structure
mean it has less oversight of its supply chain than its competitors in the apparel industry. – Traditional retailers
build trust into supply chain by checking who’s
manufacturing their products, where they’re sourcing
their materials for it. Amazon Marketplace has
more 500 million products which are sourced by
millions of different sellers and Amazon doesn’t know
enough information about them to enforce the same sort of tactics traditional retailers would use. – [Narrator] An Amazon spokesman said the company audits the supply
chains of its own brands and the company supply chain
standards require its suppliers to provide workers with a safe
and healthy work environment. He added, that Amazon
expects third-party sellers to meet these same standards. To figure out where
clothing items on the site were coming from, The
Journal started with lists of unsafe factories and a database of a
billion shipping records, then untangled the web
of importers, middlemen, and Amazon sellers. This child’s top was for sale on Amazon by a storefront called Chillipop. When you ordered it, it shipped from a clothing store called
Cookie’s in Brooklyn, New York. But before that, it was
imported by the owner of the Chillipop brand, a wholesaler in New
York’s garment district, called Trendset Originals. To reach Manhattan, it crossed the ocean in
a shipping container, all the way from Bangladesh. Where it was loaded on a ship in the port city of Chittagong, the major export hub for
Bangladesh’s garment industry. (relaxing music) In 2013, Bangladesh and
its garment industry were rocked by the Rana Plaza tragedy. And the world was briefly attuned to where its clothing was coming from. (people yelling in a foreign language) – [Newscaster] The death
toll from a garment factory building in Bangladesh
that collapsed is climbing. (people yelling in a foreign language) The collapse was blamed
on shoddy construction and a disregard for safety regulations. – [British Newscaster] An
investigation found the workers had complained about
the cracks in the walls. More than 1,100 people were crushed to death and 2,000 injured. They were making clothes
for well-known brands. – When factory collapse,
everyone was pulling the body, but I was pulling the labels. I was pulling the clothes. (dramatic music) If we can’t document, who was sourcing this factory, they will be totally
clean their hand and deny. For a renowned brand, we
definitely can write to them, but if it is go through like Amazon, how we gonna make sure
that who was the brand? Where they sourced from? You just cannot track down. – [Narrator] Facing
pressure after Rana Plaza, global retailers forged agreements with Bangladesh’s garment industry, like the Accord on Fire and
Building Safety in Bangladesh. The Accord and similar
groups, inspect factories and assist with safety improvements. When factories fail to
improve unsafe conditions they are listed as ineligible
to work with major brands, like these U.S., and these brands from major markets around the world. – If a factory has been so poor, in their efforts, or commitments, to meeting the minimum
life safety standards of our inspection, to the point
where the 200 global brands that have signed the Accord, said we’re not doin’ business with you. For somebody to go and
manufacture at that facility, with that knowledge, is unethical. It’s arguably it would be criminal. – [Narrator] Cookie’s
director told The Journal that its suppliers pledged
to use only safe factories and that Cookie’s would be taking action against Trendset Originals. A spokesman for Trendset Originals said, it sourced from Riverside
Apparels through a middleman with whom they have cut ties. Factories in Bangladesh, with
documented unsafe conditions, in theory should be barred from accessing much of the U.S. and
European retail markets. But many have found a
backdoor through Amazon. – We know that it’s
happening, because we know that the factories that
we’ve made ineligible they don’t close. So they’re getting orders from somebody other than Accord brands. – [Narrator] The Wall Street Journal followed the supply chain from 122 factories
blacklisted by the Accord and similar groups, that
are still in operation. The Journal cross-referenced
lists of the banned factories with a database of a
billion shipping records, then connected the dots
between the importers and Amazon sellers. The Journal could only
access records for shipments sent directly from Bangladesh
to the United States, but was able to trace clothing items from 51 of the 122 banned
factories, all the way to Amazon. Amazon removed these items after The Journal flagged
them to the company. An Amazon spokesman said,
the company takes action against any third-party seller they learn is not meeting its supply chain standards. The toddler top The
Journal traced from Amazon was made at a Chittagong factory
called Riverside Apparels that has been banned by the
Accord for unsafe conditions. (dramatic music) – So this the structural report
from an initial inspection. So this one, highly-stressed columns. (dramatic music) The engineers determined
they were stressed because there’s toilets blocks above them. This one is a finding where there’s damage to the actual column itself at the base. (dramatic music) The water tanks are weight,
that needs to be considered in the capacity of the building. Water on the roof, has to do with the
integrity of the concrete and corrosion to some of the rebars. (dramatic music) – [Narrator] The ownership
of Riverside Apparels would not let The Wall Street
Journal inside to film. But they granted an interview with their Managing Director
at their new factory in Dhaka, which has yet to be
inspected by the Accord. – Not having an Accord-complied factory hurts the business to some extent. But then again, you cannot have an Accord-complied
factory right away. It’s an on-going process. There are issues that remains unsolved. – [Narrator] The tops were
sewn by workers at Riverside and overseen by supervisors
like Robiul and Bahar. – (speaks in a foreign language) (dramatic music) – (speaks in a foreign language) (dramatic music) – [Narrator] The Accord also
found that Riverside Apparels has inadequate fire safety measures. When The Wall Street
Journal visited the factory these metal gates were closed over the front and rear exits,
while workers were inside. The Accord warns gates like these, whether or not they are locked, could trap workers
trying to escape a fire, or building collapse, and require
factories to replace them, with hinged emergency exit doors. When asked about the metal gates, Riverside Apparel’s owners said, keeping them closed was
not the usual practice. (dramatic music) – The financial aspects of
compliance is pretty heavy. Obviously I don’t want
to discuss the numbers, but it’s pretty heavy. Many factories have the capacity to do it, many factories do not have
the capacity to do it. (soft music) – [Narrator] It isn’t
easy for garment workers to walk away from unsafe factories. Bangladesh’s garment industry is the country’s largest employer and according to The World
Bank, its only growth sector. (soft music) – (speaks in a foreign language) – (speaks in a foreign language) – [Narrator] Amazon’s
competitors made commitments not only to improve factory
safety in Bangladesh, but also workers’ rights. Now Amazon is overtaking its rivals, bringing new practices and pressures to the apparel industry that
undermine these efforts. – E-commerce has been
showing a growth trend for the last couple of years. Mostly what’s been selling
through e-comm is fashion. And Amazon is one of the
big players in the market. Retailers they want to
provide the consumers with a variety of choices. I am having say for example,
50,000 pieces to make, but with 20 different styles. For that reason, we have to find ways in which we can increase efficiency. – (speaks in a foreign language) – (speaks in a foreign language) – [Narrator] As Amazon’s
biggest competitors in apparel chase its e-commerce success,
they’re having similar issues keeping blacklisted factories
out of their supply chains. The Journal traced clothing items from 22 banned factories to Walmart. Most were for sale on Walmart’s
third-party marketplace, designed to mimic Amazon’s. The Journal also found garments
from one banned factory listed online by Target. A Walmart spokeswoman said the company is investigating the
items it sells directly and will take appropriate action. Target declined to comment,
but removed the items after they were flagged by The Journal. – Supply chain responsibility
is a major issue for all companies. I think that the e-commerce
brands should pay the same heed and make the same commitments to supply chain responsibility. – Buying from their
store and buying online is two different world. These online store, like Amazon, they are working with
many of those factories which has been blacklisted by the Accord. If this continues, you don’t know, maybe we gonna see another
Rana Plaza catastrophe. – (speaks in a foreign language) – (speaks in a foreign language) (dramatic music)

32 thoughts on “WSJ Investigation: Amazon Sellers Sourcing From Unsafe Factories

  1. Amazon is always the focus Bec it's the most profitable and the most innovative. Other companies do the same outsourcing to sweatshops in third-world countries.

  2. Amazon doesn't even care about their employees in AMERICAN WAREHOUSES! What makes us think that they would invest a thousandth of their resources in Bangladesh?

  3. How a factory could even collapse? It is hard to imagine… The quality of the factories is daunting….Those cracks are incredibly threatening!

  4. India ?? will do anything to take this garments business away from Bangladesh ?? being a Bangladeshi we all know how they have been treating us since our independence and they are not happy about our economy growth either.

  5. Amazon should take further actions such as ending corporation with unqualified factories, compensating those injured and dead. Local government also has a part to play!They should make sure the proper construction of buildings and examine the projects on a regular basis. But deep down in my heart, I understand there is a long way to go because the market is profit-driven as the video suggests. If the factories are closed, then many people would be unemployed. Without the social welfare system,they may face hunger and death.many of them would even be forced to make a living through theft,robery and so on….

  6. It's not the fault of Amazon or any of these companies, the government of Bangladesh should make sure that law is implemented properly

  7. A discount is only worth it if the embezzler is the only one who get's squeezed. And I'm the bad guy for being critical and stingy with my spending. Just last night I spent the night cleaning a TJ Maxx store. I was shocked to see traditionally African Items being sold for a fraction of the cost. A cost too cheap even for poor Africans. In Africa those Items are a prized novelty, but here they were with a blending of European plastic made in east Asia. It made me cry.
    Rare crystal formations that took millions of years to form that were uniquely cut out and polished were only worth 20 bucks. A special delivery from Brazil. How can a bed be worth 129 dollars? Is it made out of air?

  8. Building standards, fire safety regulations and employment rights are the responsibility of the Bangladesh government, not the companies in the USA.

  9. I'm Bangladeshi born American, according to me this report by wall street journal big time conspiracy against Bangladeshi apparel industry. I seen couple of report on YouTube which is made by western media under Indian influence. I knew very wall, WSJ, blumberg, new York times, Washington post, CNN, and socil media like Google, Facebook, Twitter, all those media houses or groups or channels are under indian influence…..

  10. All the cloth wearers out there sit with an accountant or a banker and calculate how your clothes you are wearing right now costs and how much you bought it and by that price how many can be payable to the workers.

  11. White people are happy for non whites to be exploited and used so long as they dont see it or get caught. Non white govts are happy for their people to be used as they dont have to create jobs. Globalization s wonderful side effects

  12. These people are doing amazing job! Overall majority factories there has good standard, except handful. A lot of people's lives depends on it. if the end users pay a little bit more, these people's life can be changed drastically.

  13. They can't afford to comply with all those safety regulations. If you require them to do so, they will be out of job, and they will be in a much worse situation. They know the building is not 100% safe, but they take the risk over the alternative of being poor and homeless. You can't expect countries to just teleport themselves into high income nations. It takes time. The more companies invest in places like Bangladesh, the more jobs will be created there, the more their income will increase, and then they will be able to afford better building and working conditions. If you deprive them from the bad conditions now, you will deprive them from the process by which they can get to the good conditions later.

  14. This is off topic but somewhat related. I bought NIKE, Vera Wang/Chanel perfume, Canvas material grill cover, Samsung smartphone from Amazon and they were ALL turned out to be fake. And they were all coming from China. I asked Amazon agent, what's Amazon is doing to filter this fake sellers. Guess what they told me.

    Amazon said, it's not their responsibility to filter counterfeit products. And if you, as a customer, want to find out authenticity of a product you want to buy, then you should ask your friends around.

    So, if you are good at finding the real brand, then you can always return. However, if you are not so lucky like I am catching fake brand, then you are paying regular price for some cheap counterfeit brand through Amazon. I got so disappointed and upset over this, I never buy anything from Amazon except books.

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