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4 years on from Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh - some progress but a lot still to be done

"The building after the disaster" by rijan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

24 April 2017 marks four years since the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh that crushed 1,134 people to death and injured over 2,000 others. The collapse of the eight-story building, which housed over five garment factories supplying global brands, remains one of the worst industrial accidents to date. While workers' rights and safety have recieved greater attention than arguably ever before, progress in addressing problems in global supply chains is slow.

This story looks at commentary on progress that has been made since the Rana Plaza disaster and what more needs to be done to improve worker safety.

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24 April 2017

4th anniversary of Rana Plaza: Global investors with over US$ 4 trillion assets welcome progress by Accord, & urge further action & remedy

In the aftermath of the tragedy at Rana Plaza, April 24, 2013, the Bangladesh Investor Initiative coordinated by the Interfaith Centre for Corporate Accountability (ICCR) has actively engaged companies sourcing in the garment sector. Substantial progress has been made in the last 4 years, in particular through the Accord on Fire and Building Safety (Accord), a five year, legally binding framework for factory inspections signed by trade unions, brands and retailers. With one year left in its mandate, the investors believe significant progress has been made, but more needs to be accomplished.

On the 4th anniversary of Rana Plaza, 137 global investors with over US$ 4 trillion combined assets under management signed a statement which focuses on following recommendations:

  1. Accord on Fire and Building Safety (Accord) companies and trade union representatives agree to extend the Accord for the period of time needed to remediate systemic issues that still threaten worker safety and livelihood. 
  2. Accord companies implement due diligence to assess the financial capacity of suppliers and ensure proper financing is available to expedite the remediation of more costly safety hazards such as enclosed stairwell, sprinkler systems, hydrants and structural retrofitting.
  3. Alliance for Worker Safety companies ensure remediation of outstanding issues and publicly report on progress.
  4. Broaden the current scope of the Accord to include; i) a focus on freedom of association and collective bargaining and integrate this into the Complaints Mechanism process and ii) additional parts of the supply chain where similar risks exist such as washing, dying, fabrics, leather and home textiles.
  5. The Accord model of governance, legally binding provisions and ongoing transparency be the fundamental component of any credible further initiative or expansion into other countries and sectors. 

Investors will be engaging companies in their portfolios to take the time necessary to remediate all the issues found in factory inspections and ensure the safety and health of workers going forward.

See ICCR's press release for more details.

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24 April 2017

Commentary: Too much emphasis placed on transparency in fast fashion, not enough on living wage

Author: Lucy Siegle, The Guardian (UK)

“The eco guide to fast fashion”, 23 Apr 2017

Across the world conscious consumers…join fashionrevolution.org – a vibrant global civil movement focused on cleaning up the $3trn fashion industry, based primarily in low-wage economies.  Post Rana Plaza there are many reform programmes under way, from the installation of fire escapes in supplier factories to the publication of factory lists by transnational brands.  Understandably, consumers want to know which is the cleanest brand.  Campaign groups aggregate these complex initiatives and publish transparency league ratings of brands to try to help us navigate the high street.  There’s even an app, Not My Style, on iTunes.  But as a recent study from New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights concludes, too much emphasis is put on transparency (self-declared by brands) rather than actual outcomes.  The result? When it comes to paying a living wage, mainstream brands have made no real progress.  To end poverty wages and unacceptable conditions for the 60-75 million people who work in the global garment supply chain, we need to stop letting billion dollar brands define our activism. 

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23 April 2017

Commentary: Timeline of changes to improve worker & factory safety since Rana Plaza collapse

Author: Michelle Russell & Ben Wright, just-style (UK)

 “Rana Plaza four years on – Timelines of change”, 21 Apr 2017

Just days before the fourth anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, just-style looks at the changes that have been made to improve worker and building safety within the country’s ready-made garment industry.  While progress has undoubtedly been made, questions remain about the speed of remediation if all parties involved are to leave their legacy of safer factories in 2018. [Also mentions Nike, Adidas, H&M, C&A, KiK, Gap, Walmart, Levi Strauss, Inditex, JC Penney, Benetton, Primark, Auchan, Matalan, VF Corp, Esprit, Marks & Spencer, Otto, Puma, PVH and Tesco.]

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23 April 2017

Commentary: What has changed for Bangladesh's garment industry workers since the Rana Plaza factory collapse?

Author: Laura Wheatley, Segura (UK)

"Rana Plaze Factory Collapse: Four Years On", 24 April

Following the Rana Plaza disaster, several organisations have dedicated their time to raising awareness of the poor working conditions faced by garment workers globally...Less than a month after the Rana Plaza incident, international retailers including H&M, Debenhams, Inditex and Marks & Spencer joined together to found The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, with over 200 companies joining in the years that have followed...Certainly, in the four years that have passed since the Rana Plaza disaster, changes have been made.  Programs and strategies have been implemented to improve the lives and working conditions of garment workers, not only in Bangladesh but across the world. However, there are still calls for more to be done.  Behind the Barcode’s 2015 report found that of the 219 brands surveyed, 91% did not know the source of their cotton and 75% could not name where their fabric was produced...The living wage in Bangladesh only covers up to 60% of the living costs for those living in slums; a wage that many garment workers don’t come close to earning.  

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23 April 2017

Open letter to the European Commission: High time to impose transparency in the garment supply chain

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

...The lack of public data on the garment supply chain has been a strong barrier to the improvement of working conditions and to securing respect for human rights... The time has come for the European Commission to develop a smart mix of rules that will include binding regulation on human rights due diligence... At the very least, supply chains must be made transparent... In order to enforce human rights due diligence initiatives and move closer to the actual enforcement of human rights in the garment industry, the undersigned organizations call upon the European Commission to require that companies disclose, on a regular basis, the names, addresses and contact details of all production units and processing facilities in their supply chain...

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20 April 2017

Report: Follow the Thread: The Need for Supply Chain Transparency in the Garment and Footwear Industry

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign, Human Rights Watch, IndustriALL Global Union, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, International Labor Rights Forum, International Trade Union Confederation, Maquila Solidarity Network, UNI Global Union, Worker Rights Consortium

More apparel and footwear companies should join 17 leading apparel brands that have aligned with an important new transparency pledge, a coalition of unions and human rights and labor rights advocates said in a joint report issued today. The pledge commits companies to publish information that will enable advocates, workers, and consumers to find out where their products are made... The coalition contacted 72 companies and asked them to adopt and carry out the pledge. The report details their responses and measures their current supply chain transparency practices against the pledge... Transparency [...] allows workers and labor and human rights advocates to alert the company to rights abuses in its supplier factories. Information about brands’ supplier factories facilitates faster access to grievance redress mechanisms for human rights abuses...

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