A total of 150 global apparel brands and retailers have now joined the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
The Accord is a five-year legally binding agreement between international labour groups, non-governmental organisations, and retailers in the textile industry to maintain minimum safety standards in the Bangladesh ready-made garment (RMG) industry.
Launched by a group of companies in May 2013, which have since been joined by many others, it reads: “The undersigned parties are committed to the goal of a safe and sustainable Bangladeshi RMG industry in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses, or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures.”
Companies, brands and retailers that have signed the initiative comprise 44 from Germany including Tchibo, Adidas, Esprit and Puma; 19 from the UK including Tesco, Primark, New Look, Marks and Spencer, Bonmarche, Matalan, N Brown Group; 14 from Netherlands; 10 from the US including PVH; nine from Australia including Kmart, Target; eight from Sweden including H&M; six each from Denmark and Belgium; five from France including Carrefour; and four from Spain including Inditex and Mango.
Countries represented by only one company include Canada (Loblaw), Japan (Fast Retailing), Austria, Sri Lanka, Poland and Finland. Three each from Hong Kong, Norway and Italy, and two each from Switzerland and Turkey have signed up to the programme, according to an Accord statement on its website.
Following Bangladesh’s deadly Rana Plaza factory collapse on the outskirts of Dhaka last April that killed more than 1,100 workers, the retailers’ platform made the commitment to provide financial and technical support for improving fire and building safety standards in the country’s RMG factories, from where they source products.
As part of this commitment the Accord will inspect over 1,700 factories by September for fire, electrical, and building safety. The Accord has already appointed inspection companies to roll out an inspection programme scheduled to be started in the coming months.
Following a period of pilot-phase factory inspections in Dhaka and the surrounding areas, the Accord published its fire, electrical and building inspection standards on 14 January. These early inspections exposed continuing deficiencies in fire and electrical safety as well as potential structural problems in many buildings.
During the fiscal year 2012-13, Bangladesh exported apparel products worth US$21.51bn. Of this total, 58.4% were destined for the European Union (EU,) 23.22% for the US, 4.56% for Canada and 13.82% for non-traditional markets including China, Australia, India, Russia, South Africa and Japan.
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