With negotiations finalized on Bangladesh’s new garment workplace safety agreement, retail giants are signing on.
The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, revealed on Wednesday, is the result of grueling negotiations to replace the landmark Bangladesh Accord on Fire Building Safety. It is set to take effect next week, broadening general health and safety coverage for more than 2 million garment workers in Bangladesh, with the aim that it will be replicated elsewhere.
H&M and Zara-owner Inditex are among the first signatories to the agreement. As of Thursday, Danish retailer Bestseller and retail giant C&A confirmed they have signed on to the legally binding agreement on workplace safety in Bangladesh.
Their actions could inspire other signatories.
As a founding member of the Bangladesh Accord, C&A was one of the first companies to sign the original agreement in 2013 following the Rana Plaza factory disaster. In a May statement, when uncertainty loomed over the fate of the Accord, the company wrote: “We have always been engaged and involved in making the garment sector in Bangladesh as safe as possible. As proof, we set up a dedicated team in Bangladesh including our own fire and safety engineer working very closely with the Bangladesh Accord for the past eight years.”
C&A counts 156 factories in Bangladesh that have produced for the company over the past 18 months. The majority have fire doors, alarms and sprinklers in place. Meanwhile, H&M counts 137 suppliers in Bangladesh. Another signatory, Inditex, counts 1,805 global suppliers with 92 percent of its factory safety requirements fulfilled under the Accord. However, some 40 factories (of 56 Inditex suppliers examined in Bangladesh) were still outstanding on fire safety violations according to a July report from Clean Clothes Campaign and the Workers Rights Consortium.
While brands like Uniqlo, Asos, G-Star and Esprit have previously expressed sentiment in renewing, the International Accord has a long way to go, as more than 200 signatories signed the original Accord in 2013.
Calling the International Accord an “important victory” and a step toward making the garment industry safe and sustainable, Valter Sanches, general secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union, urged brands and manufacturers to “show their commitment and sign the renewed International Accord.”