As of publication, 80 signatories have joined The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry — the successor agreement to the landmark Bangladesh Accord on Fire Building Safety that was adopted in 2013 following the Rana Plaza disaster.
Among the signatories are American Eagle Outfitters Inc., PVH Corp., Zalando, Otto Group, Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., John Lewis, Tchibo and Marks & Spencer.
“The new agreement is not only an important step toward further strengthening employees’ rights, but also toward preserving progress already achieved in the area of building and fire safety,” commented Tobias Wollermann, group vice president of corporate responsibility at the Otto Group. “In this respect, we are pleased that all stakeholders involved have agreed on this goal and encourage other companies to join us and sign the new International Accord.”
Nanda Bergstein, director of corporate responsibility at German coffee and retail chain Tchibo, echoed that, saying, “We hope this momentum will allow us to take further steps that are binding and focus on joint action on the ground. Living wages need to be achieved. The climate needs protection, as well as the biodiversity of this planet. Together we can create change. The past 10 years of the Bangladesh Accord prove this point and we trust that the new structure in Bangladesh will continue the good work.”
While brands can sign on to the International Accord any time, good favor may be increasingly given to the inaugural set — something sought in the age of social media transparency and sustainability activism.
Last week, H&M, Inditex, Bestseller and C&A were among the first signatories to the International Accord. The goal of the accord is to expand health and safety coverage for factory workers in Bangladesh — and beyond, to other high-risk sourcing countries in South Asian regions.
While the accord gained momentum as it looks to match the 200 or so signatories of the previous agreement, the largest trade association in Bangladesh — The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, or BGMEA — refuted its efficacy. In a statement on Sunday, BGMEA said the International Accord “[would] have no scope of being implemented and [RMG Sustainability Council, Bangladesh’s licensed sector entity] would not be functioning beyond its mandated remit.”
“The International Accord is enforceable between brands and unions at the global level as it is binding in nature. The BGMEA statement does not change that,” contended Ayesha Barenblat, founder of Remake, a nonprofit focused on human rights that championed the International Accord’s arrival.