More than two dozen retailers have signed onto the “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh” — a binding charter created by global labor union IndustriALL. Legally enforceable and championed by workers’ rights organizations, it’s expected to help protect thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh.
Through this agreement, companies have committed to undergoing safety inspections (with reports made public) and fulfilling mandatory repairs and renovations as needed. This would hopefully mean a dramatic decrease in garment factory tragedies among the Bangladeshi people. The agreement states “The undersigned parties are committed to the goal of a safe and sustainable Bangladeshi ReadyMade Garment (‘RMG’) industry in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses, or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures.”
“We have decided to support this agreement so that our group can be at the forefront of contributing to a significant and lasting improvement in working conditions and safety in Bangladesh,” the CEO of Benetton, Biaglo Chiarolanza, said in a statement.
5. Joe Fresh
“The accord aligns with and addresses the company’s commitments to a new standard that all of its control brand products must be made in facilities that respect local construction and building codes.”
the company said. Notably, Joe Fresh was also one of the first companies to arrange a compensation package for victims of the Rana Plaza collapse.
“Fire and building safety are extremely important issues for us, and we put a lot of effort and resources within this area,” said Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability.
Zara’s parent company Inditex has signalled its support for the building safety charters.
13. Abercrombie & Fitch
“We believe this is the right thing to do to bring about sustainable, effective change.” said Kim Harr, Abercrombie’s director of sustainability. (With all the negative publicity surrounding A&F right now, this is a shrewd move too.)
23. N. Brown Group
Is a British home shopping company that includes the following brands: Fashion World, Gray & Osbourn, House of Bath, Jacamo, Marisota, Oxendales, Simply Be, JD Williams, Williams & Brown and High & Mighty.
While it seems that progress has been made, a few major retailers have failed to sign the agreement including American mega-retailer Wal-Mart.
“The company, like a number of other retailers, is not in a position to sign the IndustriALL accord at this time,” a spokesperson for Wal-Mart said in a statement.
A representative from the Arcadia Group, which controls Topshop, Topman and British chain Miss Selfridge among others, told WWD, “In order to show support for the initiative that this accord is proposing to undertake, we as a group will be signing up. This will be done on the condition that we understand the final costs to us, which to date has not been made clear.”
However, IndustriALL, the union that organized the agreement said: “Arcadia did offer to sign but with conditions and that was not acceptable.”
While Target did not agree to sign the Bangladeshi agreement, they state they support a North American group with similar goals. “We are supportive and involved with the North American Bangladesh Worker Safety Working Group’s efforts to influence safety improvements in Bangladesh,” the company says in a statement on their website.
Gap has showed reluctance to sign but claimed it was “six sentences away” from committing to the agreement.
In the end Gap refused to sign and according to The Washington Post, the companies did not participate because, “The retailers worried that the agreement would give labor groups and others the ability to sue them in U.S. courts.”