Global sourcing company Li & Fung is helping the Bangladeshi government enhance the safety of factories which manufacture products for multinationals, but it was up to the authorities to enforce the laws on safety standards, group chairman William Fung Kwok-lun said.
Speaking in New York on Monday, Fung said that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should commend those factories in Bangladesh that had improved safety standard, rather than just calling for a blacklisting of those factories with poor safety records or companies that placed orders at those factories.
In November last year, 112 workers died in a fire at a garment factory owned by Tazreen Fashion in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Tazreen Fashion is one of Li & Fung's suppliers.
The tragedy sparked protests from labour rights groups outside Li & Fung's office in Hong Kong.
Li & Fung, which specialises in supply chain management for products such as clothing and toys, subsequently offered compensation to the families of workers killed in the fire.
In April, hundreds of workers died after the collapse of a garment factory complex in Bangladesh.
Fung said he was heartbroken by the fatal fires and other factory disasters in the country.
"Bangladesh was once one of the poorest countries in the world, which relied on foreign aid, and now it has emerged as the second-biggest exporter of garments. It is a significant achievement," he said.
"As a sourcing company, we are doing our best to assist the Bangladesh government in enhancing safety standards.
"Our company has hired many inspectors to examine fire safety facilities in factories in Bangladesh where we source products.
"However, there is not much we can do. It is still up to the authorities to enforce safety standard in factory buildings and there are problems with implementation of laws."
Fung said he was upset by some NGOs that called for blacklisting of factories with poor safety standards.
"It wouldn't help workers if those factories are forced to close," he said. "Why don't those NGOs commend those factories which have made improvement in safety standards?"