Every year at the end of April numerous articles appear assessing the current situation of the garment industry since the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse on the 24th of April, 2013. One of the biggest deadly disasters in the garment industry with over a 1000 workers tragically losing their lives, a situation that could have likely been avoided had better due diligence taken place.
Working in the industry, I know many companies are working hard to bring improvement, yet that it is not a quick and easy fix and that regrettably change does not happen overnight. This is also what Emily Chan writes in the Vogue article “It Has Been 8 Years Since The Rana Plaza Disaster. What’s Changed?,” but what has changed and what has not changed in Bangladesh since 2013.
Emily Chan writes that much progress has actually been made, especially when it comes to building safety, yet that the work is not done yet and a lot more work is to be done, which can now also be seen from the situation in Bangladesh during the pandemic where despite of country-wide lockdowns, the garment industry has been exempted, asking workers to pick between feeding their families and catching COVID-19.
The concern raised is the Accord coming to an end. The Accord, only applying to Bangladesh and set up after the Rana Plaza disaster, is different from other human rights due diligence models, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines), in the sense that it is legally binding (not voluntary).
Emily Chan considers the Accord fundamental for further progress due to the important aspect of accountability and consequences if no appropriate action is being taken. I can agree to this and do believe that our stronger client programs are those where there are consequences when deliveries are not met and it will be interesting to see coming around next year what the situation in Bangladesh will be like, yet hopefully never a disaster again like Rana Plaza.
In 2013, there was global outrage when 1,134 people died after an eight-storey garment factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Fast forward to today and, tragically, people are still losing their lives while making our clothes, proving just how much more there is to be done when it comes to safeguarding workers’ safety, wages and rights.