Bound for Australia: Boxes of shirts for Kmart from the Stitchwell Designs factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: Ben Doherty
Australian consumers are demanding an end to secrecy by clothing retailers who refuse to reveal whether they source garments from Bangladesh.
Two months after at least 1127 textile workers died in the Rana Plaza factory collapse, Australian consumers' attitudes to foreign-made clothes has considerably shifted, a report from Oxfam Australia reveals.
Figures show that 68 per cent of Australian consumers would pay more for their clothes if they were ethically made and ensured garment workers were paid a decent wage. In the wake of Bangladesh's worst industrial accident, 83 per cent want to know the location of the factories, and whether workers are being treated fairly and working in safe conditions.
''The figures are quite overwhelming,'' said Helen Szoke, Oxfam's chief executive. ''It confirms our view that people actually do care what they are buying.''
Dr Szoke said the horror of the Bangladesh disaster in April had heightened consumers' awareness of how their clothes were made.
The survey, conducted in June, interviewed more than 1000 Australians.
Bangladeshi Nadim Zarrar, who supplies clothes for Big W, said it was ''hypocrisy'' for Western companies to demand better conditions and pay for workers in Bangladesh, while consistently pushing down the prices they offered.
Since the Rana Plaza collapse, international companies have rushed to sign the ''Bangladesh Accord'' to improve fire and building safety for workers. But Australian retailers have been slow to commit, causing consumer outrage. Only this month Kmart, Target and Cotton On signed the accord.
Target currently sources garments from 45 factories in Bangladesh but plans to reduce that number, spokesman Jim Cooper said.
Big W and Best & Less are yet to formally commit, despite major European clothing chains - H&M, Benetton, Primark, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Zara and Tesco - signing on immediately.