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Rana Plaza 10 Years On – Have Changes Been Made for the Better?


A decade ago the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh that killed 1,100 garment workers and injured more than 2,000, shone a very ugly light on the fashion industry. In amongst the rubble were labels of well known high street brands profiteering on the back of unethical working conditions.

The disaster sparked Fashion Revolution, founded by Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro, to promote a global fashion activism movement, mobilising citizens, brands and policymakers through research, education and advocacy. 

Brands and manufacturers were encouraged to join the International Accord on Health and Safety for the Textile and Garment Industry. The Accord is legally binding agreement between clothing brands and global unions that created an inspection and remediation programme to mitigate fire, building, electrical, and boiler safety risks for factory workers. The programme also includes a complaints mechanism for workers to file grievances about health and safety concerns.

Now, ten years on, Human Rights Watch have revealed that many clothing brands have still not joined the Accord.

“The Accord on Health and Safety is the strongest indicator for consumers that a brand is committed to protecting workers from fire and building disasters in Bangladesh and Pakistan,” said Aruna Kashyap, associate corporate accountability director at Human Rights Watch. “Nearly 200 global brands are part of the Accord and others need to follow.”

As of 11 April 2023 195 brands are part of the Accord in Bangladesh, and 45 brands are part of the Accord in Pakistan. Many other brands, mostly from the US, have yet to join.

The Accord is unique because it is a legally enforceable agreement that brands have signed with workers’ unions to implement worker safety measures, Human Rights Watch said. The clothing companies are required to follow protocols developed under the Accord.

Under the Accord, all inspection reports and remediation efforts are published for everyone to see. Workers can pursue arbitration if brands breach their contractual agreement with workers’ unions.

A variety of other private initiatives exist alongside the Accord, including social audits and certifications. Clothing brands may use these without accurately explaining how these other private initiatives differ from the protections of the Accord. This can confuse or inadvertently mislead consumers, investors, and regulators to believe the safeguards under these other private initiatives are equivalent or similar to the Accord.

Where firms administer social audits, certifications, or provide other services to mitigate health and safety risks for workers, they should disclose the limitations of their services and offer an accurate comparison with the Accord’s features if they do not already do so. Making these kinds of disclosures and accurate comparisons publicly available would help avoid inadvertently misleading consumers, investors, or regulators, Human Rights Watch said.

Fashion-Enter Ltd’s ethically compliant factory in Haringey, London

Fashion-Enter Ltd’s CEO Jenny Holloway commented: “Having read the report I find the situation utterly depressing. When there is a disaster the intentions are there to support by brands. The commitments, policies and strategies are galvanised into action and then what?  

Time moves on and the drive for profits takes place again; the commitments to fashion with integrity and working for a better industry is cast aside. 

Having spent 17-years creating a totally ethical factory that has no ‘non compliances’ with SEDEX and a leading status in the Fast Forward audit I wonder what that stands for currently?

We offer proximity sourcing, one piece flow, ethical printing and total transparency within production. We’ve never had it so tough but thanks to Very, Community Clothing and Ede & Ravenscroft we have come through the worst of times! We have high hopes with our Amazon contract too.

We’ve had lots of promises, lots of well wishes and lots of time wasting but the truth is we fit the retailers when the going is good and there’s OTB. I get that! I understand that buying from Bangladesh or getting your suppliers to move to Morocco out of sight gives margin but it’s so short term. 

Where’s the planning for the future – where’s the commitment to carbon emissions, ESG, community building – where’s all the real corporate social responsibility disappeared to? Pick up the phones retailers and talk to your supply base. We can make the difference in missing trends giving you best sellers that sell out with full margin. 

We are in a recession and I don’t care what I read – we’re splitting hairs over decimal point inflation and growth figures. The saving grace is the weather! The sun is coming and confidence is returning now that energy bills are beginning to come down and we’re not using so much gas and electricity. The next quarter – April to June is an important time for everyone here in the UK. 

“Now we have reached the 10-year anniversary of Rana Plaza and its associated human loss and suffering it is time brands are held accountable for their supply chain ethics so that this never happens again.”

For more on this story from Human Rights Watch tap here.

On 26th April, during Fashion Revolution Week FEL’s CEO Jenny Holloway joined the ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics & Sustainability in Fashion’ at the House of Commons to discuss ongoing issues and strategies for the industry, both in the UK and internationally. 

The anniversary of Rana Plaza was highlighted with a Photo Exhibition entitled, ‘Rana Plaza and the resistance, ten years on’, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group and Labour behind The Label.

Image from the ‘Rana Plaza and the resistance, ten years on’ photo exhibition

Tap here to find out more about Fashion Revolution and how you can get involved in their 2023 campaign.

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