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Bangladesh: Unsafe work conditions and child labour reported in tanneries supplying leather to western brands, companies respond

A report by Transparentem, a nonprofit group that investigates supply chains, allege that hazardous, heavily polluting tanneries employing child labour supplied leather to companies that make shoes and handbags for a host of Western brands. The report didn’t say the leather ends up in American and European companies’ products, only that the manufacturers of some of those goods receive it. Some companies say leather in their products was made outside Bangladesh, and manufacturers concur. Still, in response to the report, most brands switched factories, banned Bangladesh leather or demanded improvements.

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18 April 2017

Bangladesh cuts off electricity supply, other utilities of leather producers in Hazaribagh due to environmental concerns

Author: Justin Kenny & Adam Matthews, PBS News Hour

"Bangladesh cuts power to leather district after years of environmental violations", 11 Apr 2017

After more than 15 years of ignored high court rulings and inaction, the government in Bangladesh moved against more than 100 tanneries...by cutting off the leather producers’ electricity and other utilities in the capital’s Hazaribagh neighborhood.

Tanneries in that district were featured in a...PBS NewsHour/Pulitzer Crisis for Crisis Reporting report, “Toxic Business – Inside the Tanneries of Bangladesh.” Journalists Justin Kenny, Larry C. Price and Adam Matthews visited Hazaribagh and found a densely packed residential neighborhood filled with rotting animal hides, garbage, human waste, and untreated tannery wastewater being pumped into neighborhood waterways (you can watch the full report here).

Inside some of the tanneries, the team found children...working barefoot as they manned machinery and handled animal hides dripping with toxic chemicals. The majority of the workers inside the tanneries visited wore no footwear, gloves, masks or respirators, despite exposure to sulfuric acid...chromium (including one form that has been identified as a carcinogen associated with lung, nasal and sinus cancer) and sodium sulfide (corrosive to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract), among other harmful substances...

The water, gas and electricity cut-offs mark the most significant action taken by Bangladesh’s government since the High Court began ruling against the Hazaribagh tanneries in July of 2001. The judicial body has ruled over the past several years that the tanneries must treat their wastewater, shut down operations in Hazaribagh and relocate to an industrial park on the outskirts of Dhaka…

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24 March 2017

Report examines grim Bangladesh leather trade, links to West

Author: Martha Mendoza & Julhas Alam, Associated Press

Hazardous, heavily polluting tanneries, with workers as young as 14, supplied leather to companies that make shoes and handbags for a host of Western brands, a nonprofit group that investigates supply chains says. The report by New York-based Transparentem...didn't say leather from the tanneries ends up in American and European companies' products, only that the manufacturers of some of those goods receive it...The American and European brands that responded to queries from the AP stated their commitments to prevent labor abuse in manufacturing. But some brands, the Bangladeshi companies involved and industry officials disputed the report's findings.

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23 March 2017

Western brands respond to report on Bangladesh tanneries

Author: Associated Press

Leather made with child labor and under dangerous, polluted conditions in Bangladesh went to factories that produced goods for major U.S. and European shoe and handbag brands and companies, according to a report released Friday by New York-based nonprofit Transparentem. Those named in the report generally said they were concerned about the conditions at the tanneries, but that leather used in their particular products was made elsewhere. [Mentions Apex Group, Bay Group, C&J Clark America, Inc., White Industry Company, Simone Accessories, Coach, Inc., Michael Kors Holding, Inc., Kate Spade & Company, Diechmann Se, MAcy's, Inc., Genesco Inc., Steve Madden Ltd., Harbor Footwear Group Ltd., Sears Holdings Corporation, Timberland (VF Corp)]

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