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Everyone has a role to play

  • Published at 03:44 am May 16th, 2013
Everyone has a role to play

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, drafted by the ILO and agreed upon by fashion retailers H&M and Zara, two of Europe’s biggest clothing chains, is the much needed positive response to an otherwise depressing period in the life of the Bangladeshi garment industry.

The legally binding, enforceable agreement which requires signatory companies to protect the lives of workers making their products, should put to rest fears that the RMG sector is about to lose its customers. In fact, the very opposite may be true.

The existence of this accord and the willingness to sign it means major buyers aren’t thinking of pulling out but are instead getting ready to be more invested in the specifics of the supply chain; and the fact that the accord refers exclusively to Bangladesh means buyers are still interested in doing business here.

Unlike Walt Disney’s disappearing act, which cost jobs and livelihoods, Europeans buyers, who account for 60% of our garment exports, seem willing to do the right thing by Bangladeshi workers and the Bangladeshi economy.

American buyers are being less forthcoming and a number of them, most notably Wal-Mart and JC Penny, appear unwilling to endorse the agreement, while Gap is fiddling with details pertaining to dispute resolution. Only the US company that owns Calvin Klein has said it will sign.

It’s a shame more American companies aren’t interested in being part of the solution to a problem that, even in some small way, is caused by everyone involved in the process.

But it’s not completely unexpected, since Wal-Mart’s unresponsiveness during the Tazreen fire is telling of their attitude about“backward linkage” issues, an attitude we could, quite frankly, do without. 

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