Brands must not abandon Accord safety program, says witness signatory report

Photo: Kristof Vadino

In the week of the world day for health and safety at work, the witness signatories to the Bangladesh Accord have published a report showing that while significant progress has been made, deadly safety hazards remain at factories producing for major apparel brands and retailers.

The report, Unfinished Business: Outstanding safety hazards at garment factories, argues that the Accord’s work must continue, and calls for brands and retailers to sign a new, legally binding agreement that will allow the Accord’s work to be extended and its model to be expanded to other countries. The highly successful Accord safety program is set to expire on May 31 of this year.

The report is based on a review of the Accord’s publicly available data on safety progress, and enumerates uncorrected safety hazards at factories producing for 12 leading brands covered by the Accord, including Loblaw (Joe Fresh), H&M, C&A and PVH (Tommy Hilfiger).

While the data show that significant progress has been made to make factories safer, with a majority of safety hazards being corrected, the report also shows that weakening the legal accountability of the Accord agreement would risk the lives of innumerable workers as many important safety fixes have yet to be completed or verified.

Many of the safety hazards still present in factories are the most costly to remediate. Brands and retailers must ensure that the factories they are sourcing from have the financial means to complete these renovations. 

According to the witness signatories to the Accord - Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum/Global Labor Justice, Maquila Solidarity Network, and Worker Rights Consortium - if the Accord agreement is not extended and expanded:

  • circumstances of factories with unresolved safety problems will get worse, in the absence of the same legally binding requirements and incentives present in the Accord;
  • voluntary initiatives will replace the Accord’s safety program, leaving companies accountable to no one but themselves, which has been a recipe for failure in the past; and
  • much-needed improvements to safety in other garment producing countries will be delayed or not carried out at all.

Members of the Bangladesh Accord have less than five weeks to ensure that the progress achieved through the Accord is protected and continued by a new legally binding agreement that ensures individual companies are held accountable. The Accord is widely recognized as a proven model that meets the requirements of human rights due diligence. Brands can continue the progress achieved over the past five years and maintain their reputation as industry leaders. Or they can turn away from the path of progress by allowing the Accord to expire, with grim consequences for workers.

Read the full report here
Click here for more information on the importance of protecting the progress made under the Accord