An alliance of 17 leading U.S. and Canadian retailers has unveiled a five-year safety plan for Bangladesh garment factories aimed at improving safety conditions.
The move, announced Wednesday, follows the collapse of a clothing factory outside Dhaka in April that killed more than 1,100 workers - the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry.
The pact follows a similar commitment in May from 70 mainly-European retailers, unions and activist groups to improve safety in Bangladesh's notoriously dangerous clothing plants.
The North American retailers' plan calls for the inspections of all factories supplying their garments within a year, and for public disclosure of the findings. The agreement also calls for the establishment of basic public safety standards within three months.
Bangladesh's Ambassador to the United States, Akramul Qader, welcomed the North American plan, which includes a pledge from the group to collaborate with the European retailers.
Activists had criticized the U.S. and Canadian pact, known as the Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative, which - unlike the European deal - is not legally binding.
But the chief compliance officer for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Jay Jorgensen, said the separate agreement was needed because the European pact would subject American retailers to unlimited liability and litigation.
A man walks at the site where a garment factory building collapsed on April 24 in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 13, 2013.
Reshma Begum, center, the 19-year-old seamstress who spent 17 days trapped in the rubble of a collapsed factory building talks to the media at a hospital in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 13, 2013.
Rescuers carry a survivor pulled out from the rubble of a building that collapsed in Saver, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 10, 2013.
People work in the rubble of a collapsed garment factory in Savar near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 10, 2013.
Rescuers carry the body of a victim from the rubble of a building that collapsed in Savar, Bangladesh, May 7, 2013.
A woman cries after she identified her relative's body that was recovered from the rubble of a collapsed garment factory building, Savar, Bangladesh, May 3, 2013.
The remaining standing part of the collapsed Rana Plaza building collapses during a rescue operation by the army in Savar, Bangladesh, May 2, 2013.
Relatives mourn as they look for garment workers, missing after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, May 2, 2013.
Workers dig mass graves during a burial of unidentified garment workers, who died in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, May 1, 2013.
A boy covers his nose with a cloth as people gather in front of mass graves during the burial of unidentified garment workers, who died in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, May 1, 2013.
A woman waits for news of her relative, a garment worker, who is missing after the collapse of Rana Plaza building, in front of missing people posters in Savar, Bangladesh, April 30, 2013.
Firefighters and army personnel are blanketed in thick dust after part of the garment factory building collapses after being dislodged as part of the clearing process in Savar, near Dhaka, April 29, 2013.
Crowds gather at the collapsed Rana Plaza building as people rescue garment workers trapped in the rubble, Savar, Bangladesh, April 24, 2013.