FAQs About the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety
This page is copied and pasted from the Remake.org website to foster information about this topic.
What is the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety (aka The Accord)?
The Accord (or Bangladesh Accord) is a groundbreaking agreement on workplace safety launched in the aftermath of the worst industrial accident in fashion history, the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster. The Accord has been hugely impactful, protecting the lives of 2.7 garment makers in 1,600 factories in Bangladesh through factory inspections, upgrades, and training, putting a stop to the cycle of fires, building collapses and other accidents that senselessly take garment makers’ lives. The Accord agreement was first signed in May of 2013 between unions and more than 200 global apparel brands, including H&M, Zara, American Eagle, PVH (parent company to Tommy Hilfiger), C&A, UNIQLO, Primark, and Adidas. The Accord first expired in 2018, but a successor Accord agreement was extended again until 2021. We are now demanding the Accord’s continuation and expansion!
When and why was the Accord developed and what is the Rana Plaza disaster?
On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh collapsed with thousands of people inside. At least 1,134 people died and thousands more were injured. It is the worst industrial disaster in the history of the fashion industry, and it came on the heels of several other deadly factory accidents, including the Tazreen and Ali Enterprises factory fires.
Disasters in the fashion industry are entirely preventable. Garment makers were forced back to work at Rana Plaza even though they knew the building was cracking and structurally unsound after they were threatened by management with lost wages. Rana Plaza made it clear that the fashion industry needed a bold, systemic solution to unsafe working conditions in the form of a binding agreement. The Accord was signed within a month of this travesty. The result has been eight years of extraordinary progress, with the Worker Rights Consortium estimating that hundreds, quite possibly thousands, of lives have been saved.
What is the goal of the current Accord campaign? What counts as success?
Remake and PayUp Fashion’s campaign goal is for these five brands (H&M, Zara, American Eagle, Tommy Hilfiger, and C&A) to publicly commit to sign on to extend and expand the Accord. We are also looking for brands to not only commit to a new Accord, but commit to the most important 3 components of a new agreement, namely:
- Individual brand accountability
- An independent secretariat to oversee the Accord
- Expansion of the Accord model into other countries
To see an example of what a strong and sufficient commitment to the Accord looks like, see Asos’s statement. We are also working with other labor rights groups to confirm brands’ commitment to the Accord extension is sufficient.
Have any brands committed to extending and expanding the Accord?
Yes! As of June 12, 2021, five brands have committed to extend and expand the Accord:
These brands have also agreed to the three important components of a renewed Accord, namely brand accountability, independent oversight and expansion into other countries.
You can read Asos’s public commitment here, which states that “Given the importance of this issue, ASOS would like to state our commitment to continuing the progress made over the last eight years through the Accord, and to ensuring worker safety.”
What’s also noteworthy is that KIK, a German discount clothing retailer, was producing clothing in Rana Plaza, as well as Tazreen and Ali Enterprises factories, all deadly factory disasters that happened in 2012 and 2013 in Bangladesh and Pakistan that led to the Accord. After seeing the success of the Accord, Kik continues to strongly support this agreement, saying that they “support the expansion of the Accord model to other production countries as we have witnessed the Accord’s success and effectiveness.”
What other organizations support the Accord?
The Accord has broad international support. In addition to global labor rights organizations like the Clean Clothes Campaign, which has led the #ProtectProgress campaign for years, global unions industriALL and UNI Global Union support The Accord, as do local unions and factory-level worker groups in Bangladesh representing hundreds of thousands of workers, including Awaj Foundation and Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity. Even politicians support the Accord: Most recently Agnes Jongerius, a Member of European Parliament for the Netherlands (S&D), issued a strong statement in support of extending and expanding the Agreement.
Why target H&M, Zara, American Eagle, Tommy Hilfiger, and C&A?
Quite simply these five brands–H&M, Zara, American Eagle Outfitters, Tommy Hilfiger, and C&A–are well-known global apparel companies that source a lot of apparel in Bangladesh and throughout Asia. They are all original signatories to the Accord and they all tout their social and environmental leadership. We expect them to fulfill those lofty goals by continuing to support The Accord. As experience shows, once these leading brands sign onto the Accord, the rest of the industry will follow.
H&M for example has made public statements on the Accord extension, but the companies appear to favor the replacement of the Accord with a voluntary initiative that has no binding element or accountability for brands. We can’t let this happen. Individual brand accountability is the defining feature of the Accord, and what made it successful, and what we are asking brands to commit to.
C&A has made a similar public statement saying they support the replacement of the Accord with a locally run body. What that means is that C&A wants the binding agreement to fade away and be replaced by a voluntary initiative. What’s more, global unions will withdraw from that locally run body in August (the Readymade Sustainability Council) if the RSC fails to agree to a new legally binding Accord agreement on safety, as promised.
So far, Tommy Hilfiger and American Eagle have remained mum on the issue of whether or not they will #ProtectProgress and sign onto the Accord. Zara recently said they support a strong new agreement with individual accountability for brands.
Should we be pressuring other companies to support the Accord?
Yes! We encourage folks to pressure any and all of the 2018 Accord Extension Signatories to support the Accord. Here is the full list. Within the list, we will be tracking the support of 25 large brands in total on the PayUp Fashion website:
Adidas, American Eagle Outfitters (Aerie) Benetton, Bestseller, C&A, Carrefour, Cotton On, Esprit, Fanatics, Fruit of the Loom, H&M, Hugo Boss, Inditex (Zara), Loblaw, LPP, Mango, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, New Look, Next, Otto, Primark, Puma, PVH (Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein), River Island.
- American Eagle Outfitters (Aerie)
- Cotton On
- Fruit of the Loom
- Hugo Boss
- Inditex (Zara)
- Marks & Spencer
- New Look
- PVH (Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein)
- River Island
How does the Accord keep garment makers safe?
The Accord is extremely effective at protecting workers’ lives and well-being for a few key reasons. Most importantly, the Accord is legally binding (meaning it has a contract behind it obligating its participants to fulfill their responsibilities) and it’s enforceable against individual brands, meaning brands can be held responsible if they don’t follow through. It has teeth and real consequences for brands that don’t comply with its conditions to upgrade factories and make them safe. Under the Accord contract, brands can even be sued in court by unions if they break their promises. In fact, several brands have been sued since the Accord’s inception to remedy life-threatening workplace hazards. Voluntary initiatives have in the past been unable to prevent mass casualties in apparel factories, and the Accord by contrast proved what’s possible with a contract between brands, unions, and suppliers.
What has the Accord achieved?
It’s important to celebrate the dramatic progress made by the Accord. The initial inspection of Bangladesh’s factories back in 2013 found more than 87,000 safety issues, including more than 50 factories that were at immediate risk of collapsing. By 2018, the vast majority, 85% of all the original hazards identified had been eliminated. Today, more than 90% have been eliminated. It’s estimated that hundreds, if not thousands of lives, have been saved in Bangladesh by the Accord. In order to expand the Accord to other countries, the agreement needs to remain in place.
- The Accord covers 1,687 factories, providing building and fire safety inspections, remediation and training
- More than 38,000 initial and follow-up inspections have been conducted for fire, electrical and structural safety
- More than 90% of factories found to have safety problems have remediated those problems. That amounts to 1,260 factories.
When will the Accord expire? How and why was it extended for three more months?
The original Accord was a five-year agreement that expired in 2018. At that time, a three-year extension was signed by more than 100 of the original signatories, and that agreement was set to expire on May 31, 2021. Three days before the expiration, the Accord signatories announced they would continue to negotiate a new agreement for three more months. Advocates and consumers have until August 31, 2021 to pressure brands to extend the Accord and negotiate a strong new agreement.
According to the Worker Rights Consortium, a witness signatory to the Accord, the three-month extension has allowed more time for a strong successor agreement to be negotiated: “This will maintain the brands’ binding obligations for worker safety in Bangladesh through August 31. We are hopeful that a new agreement, preserving the crucial provisions of the Accord and expanding its reach, can be achieved during this time frame.”
Why should the Accord continue? Aren’t factories safe now?
If the Accord expires, brands will no longer be responsible for addressing safety hazards in factories where our clothes are made. We risk the occurrence of another Rana Plaza factory collapse, and perhaps most importantly we will miss the opportunity to expand the Accord to more garment makers, including those in India and Pakistan.
What’s more, the work is not done. A recent report by the Clean Clothes Campaign showed that significant safety issues, including blocked exits and missing sprinkler systems, remain in some factories in Bangladesh making clothes for major brands, including H&M, Bestseller, C&A, Joe Fresh, and PVH, among others. What’s more, the Accord is effective. That alone is a reason to keep its life-saving safety measures in place and protect progress.
Undoing the Accord now will prevent its expansion into other garment-producing nations. Unsafe working conditions continue to kill garment workers in other countries, highlighting the need to not only extend but expand the Accord. Recent workplace tragedies in North Africa, including 28 workers killed by electrocution in an illegal garment factory in Morocco in February 2021, 20 workers killed in a fire at a garment factory in Egypt in March 2021, and 8 people killed in a collapse later that month in the same country show the urgent need for brands to commit to not only extend but expand the Accord to other nations.
Why are some brands resistant to continuing the Accord?
Some but not all apparel brands do not want to be held legally accountable or financially responsible for keeping their garment makers safe. They hope to replace the Accord with a safety plan that is not legally enforceable on them. We don’t believe that they will keep their promises if they can’t be brought to court individually, as their factory audits, voluntary initiatives, and empty promises failed to prevent Rana Plaza before.
Other brands make a similar argument that all of the Accord’s functions and operations have been effectively transferred to the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), which was established in Bangladesh in 2020 to implement the Accord. But the RSC was never designed to replace the Accord agreement itself and if the Accord agreement expires on August 31, 2021, the RSC will just be another voluntary safety program, which we know doesn’t work to keep garment makers safe.
“Brands are proposing a type of [Accord] agreement that we know from before 2012, one that is no longer legally binding upon individual brands and has no independent secretariat to oversee brand compliance. Under the guise of setting up a lean structure, brands are in fact returning to self-monitoring, in direct contradiction of what upcoming [mHRDD] legislation is demanding,” says Ineke Zeldenrust of Clean Clothes Campaign.
I have more questions and I want to know more. Where can I get answers?
- The Clean Clothes Campaign, a witness signatory to the Accord, has an extensive Q&A on the Accord available here.
- The Worker Rights Consortium, witness signatory on the Accord, has an extensive list of reports and memos about the Bangladesh Accord. Their latest update on the Accord is also very helpful reading.
- The campaign website RanaPlazaNeverAgain.org also has Action Kits, FAQs and a petition that goes to a number of brands asking them to protect progress.
Quotes & Testimonials About the Accord
Please use these quotes on social media; just make sure to give proper credit to the speaker! You can cut them down to a shorter length if you need to, but please try not to change the intention of the speaker.
“I firmly believe that if the accord stays, then we will not have to die in fire accidents and building collapses.” – Ronjona Aktar Hashi, a Bangladeshi garment worker at the Alliance Knit Composite factory
“Eight years ago, the Accord was established for good reasons, to protect workers against dangerous working conditions and to put their safety first. Especially in these uncertain times during a pandemic, it’s extremely irresponsible for brands to backtrack on the one agreement that is holding brands accountable to their promise to keep workers safe in the workplace.” — Agnes Jongerius, a Member of European Parliament for the Netherlands (S&D)
“The Accord has played an outstanding role in preventing fatal accidents since its creation in 2013, and the work must continue. This three-month extension is a very important commitment. It demonstrates that we will not allow the safety and health of the Bangladeshi garment workers to be jeopardized while we continue negotiating a successor agreement with the brands, preserving the achievements in Bangladesh and also expanding them to other countries.” — Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary
“The Accord saves lives. Why on Earth would we walk away from something that works so effectively to keep garment makers safe?” — Elizabeth L. Cline, journalist and author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
“The one thing I’ve experienced after the Accord started working here is that our workers have a voice now. If there’s a crack in the building they can say “no” to the factory managers, I will not come back until you fix it.” – Kalpona Akter, founder and executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity
“Because of the Accord, the work environment has improved very much. Before there would be sacks lying here and there in the aisles, there would be three machines instead of one. There was no way out. We would have to jump over one another to make our escape. Now the aisles are clear, the workspace is clean. Now we are working in a safer environment” – Parvin Akter, Assistant Secretary of Workers Union at Ananta Apparel
“Binding obligations for companies work much better than voluntary promises. As a result of that process [of the Accord], we now have vastly safer factories in Bangladesh.” – Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium.
“Bangladesh has experienced one of the most effective campaigns of the globalized era to improve labor and safety conditions.” — Lizzie Patton, The New York Times
“We can talk freely to Accord officials. When we file complaints to Accord officials, they respond very promptly. They don’t get easily convinced by the statements of the factory management. They regularly check compliance issues during factory inspections. We strongly believe that the Accord should stay and operate in Bangladesh.” — Mim Akter, garment worker and union leader, Dress, and Dismatic factory, Bangladesh
“The Accord is a landmark agreement because it is a binding agreement. It’s not like the empty promises brands have been making to workers about their safety for years. That alone speaks volumes. ” – Kalpona Akter, founder and executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity
“We need brands to sign on the international Accord and continue to protect the progress that has been made in our country. ” – Kalpona Akter, founder and executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity
“Brands and retailers must make sure that an incident like Rana Plaza can not happen again, here in Bangladesh, or in any other production country. Our workers’ lives are important.” – Kalpona Akter, founder and executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity
“If we had had the Accord before, we could have saved all those lives that were lost in the Rana Plaza collapse.” – Kalpona Akter, founder and executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity
Sign the petition at RanaPlazaNeverAgain: www.RanaPlazaNeverAgain.org
Videos to Share and Watch:
Please feel free to post these videos on social media with credit and attribution.
- Never Forget Rana Plaza. Credit: Remake
- Rana Plaza & Tazreen Survivors Speak. Credit: Remake
- Why the Accord is important. A worker explains. Credit: Clean Clothes Campaign
- How to change the garment industry? Bangladesh Accord. Credit: Clean Clothes Campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnPesU_yPgw
- Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Credit: Worker Rights Consortium.
Additional accounts to Follow for Accord Updates:
This page is copied and pasted from the Remake.org website to foster information about this topic.