Today marks one year since the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh claimed 1,138 lives. This anniversary serves as a reminder of the human rights risks inherent in outsourcing apparel manufacturing to factories with inadequate safeguards to protect workers. Whether we are investors or consumers, NGOs or government officials, we must appeal to apparel brands and retailers to use the full measure of their influence to respect and protect the human rights of workers throughout their global supply chains, and to provide remedies when those rights have been violated.
The tragedy of April 24, 2013 underscores the need for systemic change. Yet, some progress is being made. To date, 160 companies in 20 countries have joined the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety, a collaborative initiative between trade unions and international brands to implement health and safety measures throughout Bangladesh’s garment industry. Additionally, the International Labor Organization has facilitated the creation of the National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity in collaboration with the Bangladeshi government, representatives of workers’ organizations, business associations and trade unions.
Despite these efforts, many companies have yet to fully embrace these new opportunities. Today, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility released a statement signed by institutional investors in a dozen countries, urging companies to commit to transparency at all stages of the factory audit process: inspections, remediation, training, outcomes and reporting. Transparency is critical in providing workers, managers, companies, investors and the public with the necessary information to catalyze change. The statement also calls on companies to donate to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund for injured workers and the families of those killed by the building collapse.
As we reflect back on the Rana Plaza tragedy we hope that the lessons learned will inform supply chain practices globally in order to prevent future tragedies from ever occurring again.
David M. Schilling, senior program director, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. [email protected]