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Protect Progress, What is the Bangladesh Accord and Why Does it Matter?



10 years ago, a tragedy happened in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where the Rana Plaza building collapsed. Multiple clothing factories fell, and eight floors came thrashing down instantaneously, injuring, and regretfully killing thousands of garment workers.


It has been said that this is one of the worst industrial disasters of this generation. This tragedy helped give the world a quite disturbing inside look at the way the fashion industry works. The large scale of this true devastation got the mainstream attention of media outlets everywhere, but what is way more shocking is the reminder this caused that working in these truly horrific conditions is a part of the daily life for the millions of garment workers in Bangladesh and throughout the world.


The massive media attention on this topic started a movement for the people to come together. Wherever in the world, trade unions, consumers and non-government organisations called for a swift step for brands to step up and take responsibility to address the health and safety of these workers. What was their response, it was the Bangladesh Accord.


What is the Bangladesh Accord?


It is a legally binding agreement, which was created a month after the Rana Plaza disaster. Around two hundred major brands and retailers signed this accord. Such as M&S, Tesco, and H&M.


Why is it important?

As Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of clothes in the world, only behind China. An insane number of articles of clothing around four million, workers are employed in over seven thousand factories, these are the people who make the clothes we wear in our daily lives. Before this accord was made, the brands relied heavily on volunteer industry schemes, but these were known to be unfulfilling, mainly because there were no repercussions if they failed to meet the required standards. These factories could be known to be completely unsafe, even with that there was no need to change them for the brand or factory. After the accord made replacements to these voluntary schemes with legally binding consequences for the factory that does not meet the safety standards in inspections, requiring the brand to give financial support allowing factories to make the required improvements.


How does it work?

The brands that have signed the accord have become required to give any information about the factories they use to make their clothing items. Obviously, the factories are also subject to inspections that are made by an independent safety inspector. Then once that was completed, a report that would have recommendations for some improvement safety measures are made apparent to the factory owner and their respective brands. Once the money has been decided, an action plan is built to deal with the report recommendations and then a further inspection takes place to look at the progress. As well as all these things, a safety committee and safety training programmes have been made by the accord to empower workers with information on their right to not accept dangerous work, how to find and work with safety risks and giving a voice to their complaints.


Is it effective?

Of course. For the first time in a while, brands are completely legally accountable for the working conditions of their workers in Bangladesh. There have only since been around two instances where companies have been taken to court. Settlement This article talks about the two big settlements taking the companies to court. They were accused of being slow to fix a threat to safety hazards in their factory. Because of this, the brand was needed to pay two million to change issues at more than 150 garment factories. This is proof that the legally binding element can hold companies to pay massive settlements and hold them accountable.


In the past decade, there have been safety inspection that has found issues where there was quite a chance there was a large and imminent risk of internal structural failure. Because of that, the factory's workings were shut down and the employees were evacuated. The accord also worked closely with the brands and helped make sure that workers' jobs would remain secure, and they would be supplied a stable wage whilst these improvements took place. This is a massive improvement as before at Rana Plaza workers were forced to come back and re-enter the building which was unsafe because their wages would have been held from them if they did not return.


Obviously, this was great for the fashion industry and is now being made to be a norm as certain brands that do not follow this have received immense backlash and criticism not only from the media but also social media with lots of customers refusing to buy from these companies and hurting sales. This is a vast improvement for society and continues to be build off in todays generation with the accord expiring in august 2021.


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