Rana Plaza – nine years later
Sunday marked the ninth anniversary of a collapse that shook not only the foundations of the Rana Plaza building, but also those of the fashion industry, as the tragedy in Savar, Bangladesh, also brought to light the grievances of other manufacturing countries.
Safe workplaces have been exposed as a myth, supported by everyday occurrences such as blocked exits, barred windows, extreme time pressure, insults and harassment by superiors, but also structural damage to buildings and a general lack of safety precautions.
Soon, the industry came together to set an example in Bangladesh: “Made in Bangladesh” was to change from a substandard brand to a registered trademark. Thus, the factories were mapped for the first time, audited and action plans put in place to deal with the necessary repairs. Bangladesh was supposed to become the safest garment industry in the world and factories like Denim Expert Ltd., for example, have shown the way.
Here, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety stood out. They shared the factories and worked to modernize them. However, both initiatives were initially limited to five years. While the Alliance ended after five years, the Accord was extended until 2020 and then handed over to the state watchdog RCC, or later to the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC).
At that time, about 1,000 units of some 4,000 garment factories in Bangladesh were slow to take action to become completely safe. This process is still ongoing today; the pandemic being partly responsible for the delay.
What has changed in the past nine years?
Transparency is no longer the weird word it once was, and fashion brands and retailers have realized that there are tangible benefits to not protecting factory names, but exchanging information with other companies. others and to work together to find new solutions.
The Corona pandemic has been an example of long-standing relationships and good communication in the supply chain which has allowed changes and splitting of orders to relieve understaffed factories and to absorb supply shortages. supply.
If this was not the case and if there were short-term relations and little communication, it also meant little sympathy for the other party’s situation: Here, buyers canceled orders or did not pay finished products on time or not at all, which forced many factories to give up and brought garment workers to their existential limits.
An international agreement
The Bangladesh Agreement became the International Agreement for Health and Safety in the Garment and Textile Industry, which operates from Amsterdam and entered into force on September 1, 2021. Independence from specific country makes the new Accord more international, but also provides a loophole for not having joined: The BGMEA, for example, says it could not apply to factories in Bangladesh, and the RSC does not wouldn’t recognize it either.
This brings the focus back to brands and retailers: if they impose strict security measures, including on-site verification before entering into new business relationships, and then adhere to regular audits, factories have no no choice but to upgrade in terms of security. Governments should subsidize these measures because they are expensive: around 175,000 to 260,000 euros (about 147,000 pounds to 220,000 pounds/188,000 to 280,000 US dollars) per factory, according to estimates.
A supply chain law, as planned by the EU, is also a step in the right direction, as is the Garment Worker Protection Act passed in the state of California last year.