Current improvements to factories across Bangladesh have made it a more attractive place for brands to align themselves with, he says. “There are a lot of opportunities for countries to attract more business, and we believe we can help the industry in Pakistan to benefit from that by introducing the Accord and helping the industry become more safe and sustainable.”
“It’s very clear that the industry’s attitude and approach to safety has changed,” says Boessiger of UNI Global Union. Factory owners in Bangladesh say the Accord identified flaws and has helped create better working environments to meet global standards. For example, Denim Expert’s Mostafiz Uddin says his factory was able to correct issues by working with the Accord, which carried out boiler safety inspections, fire safety checks, structural checks, as well as provide training to staff such as labour management training. He adds that the pressure to uphold these standards remains: “The brands also have their independent checking, quarterly and annually, so the pressure is still there especially from brands and retailers to [uphold] this safety; and I think it should be there.”
Governments, manufacturers and the Accord team need to work together to transform the local garment industry. He argues that the Accord would not have been as impactful had the government not supported the programme. Manufacturers in garment hotspots such as Bangladesh and Pakistan have the opportunity to rebrand and influence how they are seen by retailers. The Accord has encouraged Uddin to be more transparent and showcase certification to brands and retailers, alerting them to the health and safety standards of his workplace, which he says is attractive to brands who want to align themselves with good manufacturers that have good working conditions.
The effect the Bangladesh Accord has had on the garment industry is unambiguous, says Center for Global Workers’ Rights’s Mark Anner. “Workers are much safer now than at any time prior to the horrific Rana Plaza building collapse,” he says. Yet, nearly a decade on since its inception, workers safety across other international countries remains a pressing issue for the industry.
Although many hail the transformative nature of the Accord, work is still needed in order to create systemic change for garment workers. “As new factories emerge, they need to be inspected; and existing factories need continued oversight and follow up,” says Anner. “Brands continuously need to ensure their purchasing practices — most especially their prices — fully cover the cost of building safety,” he argues.
The potential to broaden the scope of the Accord is not completely off limits. The International Accord has developed an internal group that is exploring the possibilities of the Accord expanding to cover other human rights due diligence responsibilities. “There is also a commitment in the International Accord to look at other human rights diligence responsibilities… We will need to see whether there’s a need, and whether it is an added value, for the Accord to play a role,” says Oldenziel.
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