Benetton's chief executive officer has admitted that the Italian fashion giant bought shirts from a company that operated inside the doomed Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
As revealed by IBTimes UK, Benetton was still producing clothes in Dhaka right up to the time when the building collapsed. At least 900 people were killed.
The company had earlier denied any involvement with manufacturers in the building but later recognised a "one-time order" that was completed and shipped several weeks before the tragedy. It said the manufacturer, New Wave Style, "had been permanently removed from the list of potential direct or indirect suppliers [as it] no longer met the stringent standards that made it eligible to even potentially work for us".
Then, Benetton admitted that it "occasionally" subcontracted orders to one of these Dhaka-based manufacturers, but it "strongly reiterated" that none of the Rana Plaza manufacturers was a supplier to any of the group's brands.
Biagio Chiarolanza said that one of Benetton's suppliers in India, Shahi Exports PVT, had subcontracted two orders to New Wave, which was housed in Rana Plaza.
Chiarolanza said that Benetton's orders with New Wave totalled around 200,000 shirts and were issued in December 2012 and January 2013.
Benetton said it was not aware that the factory building was constructed without appropriate safety permits. Between 2% and 4% of Benetton's products are made in factories in Bangladesh, according to the company.
Documents found in the Rana Plaza rubble and photographed by the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF) and Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and passed on to the International Labor Rights Forum, indicate Benetton had a protracted relationship with New Wave Style Ltd.
Some documents demonstrate that as recently as 23 March, 2013, workers in the building were still producing clothes for Benetton. The building collapsed a month later, on 24 April.
One job order, dated 7 February, 2012, is for 25,823 sleeveless shirts to be shipped from Bangladesh to Benetton's Italian factory and headquarters in Castrette, near Treviso.
Another, dated 30 July, 2012, includes technical comments on the production for Spring 2013 fashions. Both documents are labelled United Colors of Benetton.
Email correspondence in July-August 2012 from Benetton India to a shipping company, Shahi Exports Pvt Ltd, contains package details and technical comments and adjustments received from Italy on the production of a bow.
Documents labelled New Wave include two cutting plans from New Wave dated September 2012 for normal and sleeveless shirts for a total of 45,346 pieces. Those garments were to be shipped in September/October 2012 to mixed destinations: Italy, US, Shenzhen in China.
The paperwork recovered from the wrecked building feature a fabric receive report received on 31 August by New Wave and supplied by Shahia Export in India.