Tragedy in Bangladesh
I am Les Mandelbaum. President and co-founder of Umbra, 33 year old designer and wholesale vendor of gifts and home décor.
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 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 on 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.