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24 Apr 2023


NGOs file complaint under new German Supply Chain Act against IKEA and Amazon over alleged failure to meet their due diligence obligations by not signing Bangladesh Accord

'First complaint case filed under German Supply Chain Act', 24 April 2023

"10 years after Rana Plaza, there are still factories in Bangladesh producing clothes for international corporations like Amazon, IKEA or Tom Tailor, where there are hardly any safety checks. We can no longer accept this," says Amirul Haque Amin, president and co-founder of the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF).

FEMNET, ECCHR and NGWF file the first complaint on the basis of the Supply Chain Act which came into force in January 2023 with the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control. The complaint is based on a research conducted in Bangladesh in March 2023 by the trade union National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), which identified safety deficiencies such as a lack of inspections, but also other labor rights violations such as a lack of freedom of association.

This is despite the fact that an effective mechanism for improving workplace safety, the Bangladesh Accord, has been in place since 2013. The "Accord for Building Safety and Fire Protection in Bangladesh" was a response to the collapse of the Rana Plaza building exactly 10 years ago, when 1,138 people died while sewing for international brands. Yet to date, leading companies that have supplier factories in Bangladesh have not signed the agreement or its successors. "Now is the time to use the German law to finally oblige such companies that do not want to voluntarily take responsibility for the people in their supply chains to do so," says Dr. Gisela Burckhardt, Chair of the Board of FEMNET and expert on human rights in the garment industry.

Together with ECCHR, which uses legal means to combat human rights violations by companies, FEMNET is supporting the Bangladeshi trade union NGWF in its complaint. "We are convinced that the failure to sign is a violation of corporate due diligence," said Dr. Miriam Saage-Maaß, lawyer and Legal Director of ECCHR. "It is now up to the competent German authority, the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control, to consider the complaint. We very much hope that the authority will ensure that German companies' business practices will not contribute to deadly disasters like Rana Plaza in the future."

Frankfurter Rundschau (FR) asked IKEA and Amazon for a statement and writes (unofficial translation by BHRRC):

...Ikea announced on Monday that the company does not tolerate "under any circumstances abuses of human rights or safety standards in our supply chain". Ikea has its own standards that go far beyond the legal requirements, it said in response to a question from FR. The requirements for suppliers are laid down in the Ikea Code of Conduct Iway and are regularly checked in unannounced audits, according to Ikea. However, Ikea wants to remain independent of international agreements such as the Bangladesh Accord, the company said.

Critics complain that transparency is lacking in programmes like Iway, as the results of inspections are not made public.

Amazon said it was committed to "ensuring that the products and services we offer are produced in a way that respects human rights and the environment". It works with suppliers "who are committed to these principles", an Amazon spokeswoman said.

Part of the following timelines

Bangladesh: Labour rights orgs, trade unions & workers mark 10th anniversary of Rana Plaza collapse

Complaints under the German Supply Chain Act

Implementation of the German Supply Chain Act