I am highly skeptical of the real motives here, but I am glad Wal-Mart is publicly calling for improved worker safety in Bangladesh. That said, it’s pretty clear that a) Wal-Mart could play a far more active role in the conditions of the workers who make its goods than it actually does and b) this is a pretty obvious and probably fairly meaningless attempt to protect its corporate brand from blame for the working conditions created in no small part by how it demands such low costs from its suppliers.
On the other hand, this is how international pressure can start making a difference. Companies making token efforts at workplace safety can become real efforts for workplace safety if attention remains focused on their actions. So this is a positive development.
In a related story, can we crowdsource a good term like “greenwashing” for corporations making token moves to pretend they care about worker safety? All ideas welcome. Someone on Twitter suggested “shirtwaisting” which I love but might be a bit obscure for general use.