One of the world's biggest merchandising powerhouses, the Walt Disney Company, has decided to cut production of trademarked goods in a handful of countries that includes Belarus and Pakistan.
The U.S.-based company -- which controls the rights to such popular characters as Mickey Mouse, Winnie-the-Pooh, the Lion King, and Snow White -- says the step is part of an effort to boost safety standards in its supply line by avoiding the "highest-risk countries," according to a CNNMoney report
Belarus and Pakistan are joined on Disney's list of safety slackers by Ecuador, Venezuela, and serial violator
Bangladesh, a low-wage haven where the collapse this week of a shoddily constructed factory building left at least 500 people dead
and refocused attention on the country's abysmal workplace-safety record.
Disney representatives suggested to "The New York Times"
and others that the pullout decision followed two garment-factory fires last year, in Bangladesh and Pakistan, that killed nearly 400 workers.
Disney reportedly sent a letter to thousands of retailers and license holders telling them to put an end to the production of its branded products in those five countries by April 2014.
The company said its decision was based on a report from the World Bank that assesses how countries are governed, using metrics like accountability, corruption and violence, among others. The five countries from which Disney pulled production had the lowest scores on those measures.
Disney said it will continue to source from some countries, like Haiti and Cambodia, that didn't get high marks in the World Bank report, but only with factories that partner with the Better Work program run by the International Labor Organization and the International Finance Corporation. The group works to control health and safety conditions.
CNN and "The New York Times" quoted company sources as saying none of the five blacklisted countries accounts for more than 1 percent of Disney's sourcing.
The Walt Disney Company is thought to be the world's largest licenser, with reported gross revenues of more than $42 billion in 2012.
Belarus's economy has slowed in recent years following a decade of steady growth and poverty reduction, with a currency and payments crisis taking a heavy toll in 2011, The World Bank has noted
-- Andy Heil