Safety for Bangladesh

After weeks of petition and public pressure, Peppermint today celebrates the news that clothing giants H&M and Zara have made momentous steps towards improving worker safety and supply chain transparency by signing the legally-binding Accord on Building Fire and Safety in Bangladesh. The importance of this move cannot be underestimated, particularly by brands as large as these. A first-of-its-kind contract, the Accord means companies will be responsible for financing independent building inspections and renovations, addressing safety hazards and allowing unions to inform workers of their rights. H&M and Inditex (owners of Zara) were quickly joined by UK retailers Primark and Tesco and The Netherland’s C&A, all of whom were guided by the bold leadership of PVH (Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) and Tchibo, the first two companies to embrace the agreement. Pressure is now mounting on other key industry players, including Walmart, Gap and United Colours of Bennetton, to sign before the May 15 deadline.

tarzeen fire via Clean Clothes Campaign

The Clean Clothes Campaign, who have been fighting for this result and will act as a witness to the Agreement, are thrilled. “The Accord includes all of the components essential to be effective,” says the CCC’s Ineke Zeldenrust. “Independent safety inspections with public reports, mandatory repairs and renovations, the obligation by brands and retailers to underwrite the costs and to terminate business with any factory that refuses to make necessary safety upgrades, and a vital role for workers and their unions… We now call upon all major brands sourcing from Bangladesh to prevent more deaths and sign this agreement before the deadline of the 15th. With 1,250 workers killed in the last six months in Bangladesh, it is now time for companies to move beyond vague promises, business-as-usual self-regulatory schemes and rhetoric, and to sign a binding safety agreement that can finally bring an end to the horror… More than one million consumers have signed petitions calling brands to take action: All brands should now sign.”

Bangladesh - Photo: Ismail Ferdous

Meanwhile, over the weekend, the Bangladeshi government also announced plans to raise the minimum wage for textile workers – some of the lowest paid in the world. “I believe labour should be justly appraised,” Abdul Latif Siddiqui, Minister for Textiles, told The Guardian. “We want to save the industry but at the same time we want to uplift the standard of living of our workers. We do not want slave labour.” But for now, if you’d like to continue the pressure on other brands who are yet to sign the safety Accord, contact them via social media, telephone or email. This historic agreement is proof that consumer voices combined have the power to bring about real and momentous change, and we couldn’t be happier.

{via The Guardian, Clean Clothes Campaign, AP}.