Four years ago, in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza tragedy, the ‘Accord’ on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (the ‘Accord’) created a five-year, legally binding framework for factory inspections aiming to identify and remediate unsafe working conditions in Bangladesh’s textile industry. By publishing an Investor Statement on the 4th Anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy this spring, a coalition of global institutional investors, amongst whom Ethos and the members of the Ethos Engagement Pool International, pushed heavily for a prolongation of the ‘Accord’ until all remediation measures are completed.
To double down on this effort, Ethos and the members of the Ethos Engagement Pool International have followed up the Investor Statement with direct letters to eight key corporate members of the ‘Accord’. The companies were asked to extend the ‘Accord’ for the period of time needed to remediate the remaining issues and to broaden the current scope of the framework to include freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining for workers.
On 29 June 2017, several companies and trade unions have agreed to renew the ‘Accord’ for an additional term of three years. The agreement will enter into effect when the current ‘Accord’ expires in May 2018. The renewed framework builds on its previous features such as independent safety inspections, training of workers in health and safety protocols and remediation of all remaining issues, but adds improvements like granting severance pay to employees when they are laid off or relocated due to safety reasons. Last but not least, the renewed agreement puts greater emphasis on freedom of association and collective bargaining, and broadens the scope of the Accord to include additional parts of the supply chain where similar risks exist.
The explosion of a boiler at a Multifabs factory in Bangladesh on July 3, 2017 which resulted in several fatalities underscores the importance of renewing and strengthening the Accord to ensure that such accidents are avoided in the future.