Today marks the 5th anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, where 1138 workers in the textile industry died and more than 2000 got injured when the factory building complex collapsed in Bangladesh.
The global uproar the accident not only targeted the local authorities for not setting up the right safety standards: a majority of the victims could have survived should the factories had followed thorough construction regulations and fire safety and maintenance schedule. The investigation also pointed the finger at major retail brands which dominate the global fashion industry and which habe been using the factories to mass-produce their collections without implementing appropriate action to guarantee safe and fair labour conditions of the workers.
Wtihin the following 5 years, most of the greatest brands such as H&M or C&A have agreed with the action plan set with the local authorities by the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
They have also corrected their actions and internal politicies accordingly to promote the safe and sustainable production of their items - whether the labour conditions have changed in the industry, this could be questionned. However the Accord has led to the audit of most of the production factories and the declaration and correction of obvious safety issues in the country.
According to Public Eye,
Bangladesh is the fourth leading source of clothing imported into Switzerland
I would like to strongly encourage you to read the article from Swissinfo.ch "Swiss firms pressured to sign Bangladesh safety accord", and if you can read German, the open letter that the Swiss social justice NGO Public Eye sent to major Swiss brands (Chicorée, Coop, Mammut, Manor, Migros, Zebra) that haven't joined the Accord.
Learn more about the steps that have been made in the fashion industry following the tragedy thanks to the timeframe infographics provided by Fashion United.
Want to go the extra mile?
Many stakeholders from the retail industry have showed the way and reached a certain level of transparency on their activities and policies. Again, if you are interested in the topic, I invite you to consider the free online course on Fashion and Sustainability which will give you an idea of the areas of challenges and actions for the industry and the potential for change in the future.
As a consumer, you also have a strong role to play when you shop for new clothing items. I know I have said that a few times in the past, but do your homework:
- inform yourself on the the production chain of your favourite brands. Check where the raw materials come from, what are the labour's working conditions, read the available sustainability reports,...
- as often as you can, buy locally-produced items, fix the ones you have, do not buy for fun, look at second-hand shops and markets...
Pics/ AP Photo/A.M.Ahad, File - others: CC0