In the wake of the Rana Plaza Bangladeshi garment factory disaster in April this year the Ethical Fashion Forum, through its SOURCE platform, has co-ordinated a collaborative, collective industry response, alongside the work of partner organisations and trade bodies.
The Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh was the second deadliest industrial disaster in history and claimed the lives of over 1,190 people and injured another 1,900 people, most of which were garment workers and the vast majority of which were women. This disaster is set against the context of a string of factory accidents in Bangladesh over the past ten years, including the Tazreen factory fire that killed over 110 garment workers and another more recent fire that tore through a dyeing mill outside Dhaka, killing another ten workers.
The severity and frequency of industrial accidents in the garment sector, most recently in countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia, has increased to the point that sourcing from these countries is in danger of becoming too risky for business. When things go wrong it can have an impact on everyone’s bottom line, throughout the whole of the value chain.
This document focuses on the practical and constructive steps that should to be taken by the industry – both supply and retail sectors – to ensure that such a disaster will never happen again.
The Ethical Fashion Forum comprises an industry network of over 15,000 professionals from both the supply and retail sector, large and small, and hundreds of partner organisations and trade bodies in 130 countries. We received more than 300 responses from this network on what is needed in a Value Chain Call to Action. We are not intending to come up with a new set of standards but rather to coordinate and put into one place the excellent work that is happening across the industry to improve conditions in value chains.
This Value Chain Call to Action will act as a tool in on-going liaison with our members, fashion businesses and industry stakeholders across the world as well as policy makers.
This document is into divided into two main sections: Part One calls for seven short term actions that are directly relevant to the situation in Bangladesh going forward; Part Two takes a broader focus and long-term view at some of the most pressing needs for the fashion industry across global value chains to increase ethical and sustainable business practices.
This Value Chain Call to Action is not about social and environmental responsibility alone. There is a business case, both direct and indirect, where responsible business practices are crucial in working towards long-term economic sustainability and competitiveness. It will have to be a core component of how businesses operate.
We’d like to thank everyone who has contributed expertise and thoughtful input to this document, we’ve done our best to analyse and synthesise your responses, taking special care to pull out the common themes and biggest concerns.
This Value Chain Call to Action does not cover every issue that the fashion industry faces in working towards ethical and sustainable business practice. However, it does highlight those that the Ethical Fashion Forum and its network suggest are amongst the most pressing in order for meaningful change to happen at an industry- wide level.
PART ONE: SHORT TERM ACTION, SPECIFIC TO BANGLADESH CONTEXT
1.) Companies sourcing in Bangladesh are urged to sign the international Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
2.) Pressure on the government to effectively implement the National Tripartite Plan of Action on fire Safety for the Ready-Made Garment Sector in Bangladesh
3.) Investment in immediate improvement in health and safety of existing garment factories across Bangladesh
4.) Short-term and long-term support and compensation to victims and the families of those killed in both the Rana Plaza collapse and the Tazreen Fashion factory fire
5.) Pressure on the government to raise the minimum wage for garments workers to a living wage of approximately USD $120 per month
6.) Support for effective implementation of the amendment allowing garment workers to form trade unions without consent from factory owners, increasing accountability
7.) Pressure on other governments to mobilise resources to support the Bangladesh government and International Labor Organization’s 3-year programme ‘Improving Working Conditions in the Ready-Made Garment Sector’ (RMG)
PART TWO: LONG TERM ACTION – BEYOND BANGLADESH, INDUSTRY WIDE CHANGE
1.) Improved transparency and traceability
2.) More and better industry collaboration and coordination
3.) Better monitoring processes and greater worker engagement, where there is accountability for all stakeholders involved
4.) Better purchasing practices by brands and retailers
5.) Better decision making processes across value chains, empowering managers within businesses to be able to make more responsible business decisions – especially when ethical trading issues arise
6.) Rethink incentive structures across value chains where stakeholders are supported, recognised and rewarded for meeting minimum compliance as well as going above and beyond basic compliance
7.) Fashion businesses and governments should integrate the pillars of the ‘Protect, Respect, Remedy’ framework into their business practices and policies
8.) Buying-country legislation should create incentives for brands and retailers to operate more ethically, responsibly and sustainably – at home and abroad
9.) Brands, retailers and buying countries should use their business leverage to drive systemic change across value chains
10.) Suppliers and supplying governments should use their leverage to ensure better buying practices and more responsible consumption