The Bangladesh Accord is one of the greatest achievements in the efforts to achieve better working conditions in producing countries. A few years ago, for the first time ever, we managed to bring together many of the world’s largest buyers and make the textile industry in Bangladesh safer in a concerted and binding manner.
It was always clear that the Bangladesh Accord would – one day – return the task of improving the fire and building safety of factories to the Bangladesh government and administration. This is key to achieving long-term effectiveness. The premise however always had to be, that the good and constructive work of the Accord would be continued in the same quality.
Through our joint investment – as companies and suppliers – we have been securing the necessary start-up financing, structural development, and significant improvements at factory level. We are proud of what we have achieved, even if it is only one building block in the sum of all that still need to be changed. We are therefore all the more dismayed that the institutions in Bangladesh are pushing ahead with an early termination of the Accord without a transparent, independent and viable transition structure being in place.
While it is not up to us to speculate about the reasons, we urgently advocate not to take impulsive actions – in the interest of garment industry workers. Much time was spent over the past months on developing and negotiating a good transition process; moving down the same constructive path should determine the actions of everyone involved in the months ahead.
Just as the Rana Plaza disaster was a turning point for Bangladesh, the hasty expulsion of the Accord from the country would also be devastating. If the decision is confirmed, we – like all other member companies – will take over the tasks that have to date been carried out by the local Accord experts, from Bangladesh and Germany, in cooperation with our producers and the Accord office in Amsterdam. The binding commitment of the Accord remains in effect for all: Employees must be given the best possible safety.
The Accord has become one of the essential foundations of our business activities with Bangladesh companies. At the same time, it is not in the best interest of the garment workers for us to leave the country. This would be against the principles of responsible purchasing. Our first premise for action is to try to continue the good work being done in the country.
Nevertheless, a forced pull-out of the Accord will significantly reduce our confidence and trust in the country, and it cannot be ruled out that we will also have to consider business consequences if the Accord’s requirements do not continue to be implemented.